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Guy Leaves MacBook On Table In USA And …

Standard operating procedures mean all the time, every time.

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ROCHESTER, NY- I’m sitting in the dining area of Wegmans on the east side of Rochester and this guy who looks like a university professor — or some other professional type — leaves his MacBook Pro and his briefcase unattended on the table as he goes to take a leak or make a purchase or something.

I’m sitting directly across from him with my hand and neck tattoos, leather jacket, and tall leather engineer’s boots. A little ways from me is a bum — a real one. He has his bags and way too many layers of clothes on. A construction worker is nearby. Behind him is a black dude. A full array of typecasts that a wide swath of US society may associate with crime.

There are no security cameras. The staff is nowhere to be found. The door is 30 meters away.

The guy left his things sitting on that table for around fifteen minutes and then returned to find that …

… nobody stole anything.

Americans are often shocked when they travel abroad in many places and realize that people can leave valuables out and nobody will steal them.

“We can’t do that at home!” they often exclaim.

Actually, they can.

But they probably shouldn’t.

Places are safe and secure until suddenly they’re not. Theft often happens in the places we expect it the least.

When we are going through a rough part of a city or in a country with a high crime rate, we are on alert. We don’t carry our valuables with us at night. We keep the things we need deep inside of hidden pockets or behind locks. We watch out for ourselves like rabbits in an open field. We become difficult to rob.

But when we are in comfortable situations that seem safe — where everybody looks like us and you assume a general sense of security — we tend to relax our standards. We leave our valuables exposed … and this is when we are most susceptible to being jacked. I have heard far more stories of travelers having their laptops, phones, and other valuables stolen in hostels and other “safe” environs than being mugged in the streets.

Security in travel is an illusion — when you feel most comfortable is when you are at risk the most.

So when I got up from my seat in that Wegmans to go to the bathroom I …….

… packed up my MacBook, slipped it into my backpack, and took it all with me.

Giving people the opportunity to rob you isn’t being benevolently unsuspecting, it’s laziness. Standard operating procedures mean all the time, every time.


Filed under: New York, Travel Safe

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

9 comments… add one

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  • Rob May 17, 2019, 9:29 am

    When you get comfortable, you forget.

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    • Wade Shepard May 19, 2019, 8:21 am

      That’s true and probably the most important factor. When you’re comfortable your guard is down. Who wants to be thinking about security when having fun? That was actually one of the reasons why I haven’t traveled in Latin America for a long time. I realized just how much energy I was putting towards theft prevention and was like, “man, is this worth it?”

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  • Bill May 20, 2019, 10:23 am

    Temptation is real. Is it right to tempt people. ? No? Or is it better to provide folks an opportunity to resist temptation?

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    • Wade Shepard May 20, 2019, 10:48 pm

      Good point. Why create such a situation when it’s not necessary.

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  • Trav May 29, 2019, 3:00 pm

    What a dumbass! Why do that anywhere. Was he testing you or was he just that clueless?

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    • Jack July 29, 2019, 12:27 pm

      Or maybe he was insured. My renter’s insurance will cover my laptop if it gets stolen from a coffee shop. What’s the chance it will get stolen? How valuable is my table I have and the time it takes to set up? How much is my deductible? All of those are risk calculations.

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      • Wade Shepard July 29, 2019, 2:38 pm

        Good call. It’s true that there is a value to cafe tables after you’ve already set up your stuff. It’s annoying to break down and set back up — it takes time, and if you’re working costs money.

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        • Jack July 30, 2019, 7:00 am

          An example is tonight. I’m in hospital overnight for observation. I don’t to stay cooped in the room and I need to walk out and get some fresh air or whatever.

          I couldn’t survive without my devices so I brought them. Lots of people have access to my room but I’m not putting myself away when I leave. The risk is low and it’s all insured.

          That said, I would not leave them alone in a foreign hospital because forget doing an insurance claim and the risk is higher. It goes back to the temptation comment above. If you leave something worth 3 to 6 months salary in front of someone, their own risk vs reward calculator goes up.

          I’ve found that there are people who will steal anything and there are people who would never steal. In between are the people who have a threshold. Increase the reward and reduce the risk and they might steal.

          And because I’m in a hospital bored I will share the story of losing a mobile phone in Thailand many years ago in early 2004. I went to a good court and played games with the kids and ate. I left my phone on the table and walked away. I came back an hour later and it wasn’t there but I knew that going back. But then a security guard came up to me and asked me if I lost a phone. He asked for the number, called it and gave it back to me. Someone had turned it in. I suppose for both the person and the security guard the risk(karma) was greater than the reward(cheap phone).

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          • Wade Shepard July 30, 2019, 9:33 am

            Oh man, why are you in the hospital? That sucks. Hope you get out soon! But I guess it does give you a chance to hang out and comment on my blog haha.

            Good call about insurance. It would be cool if in the USA but filing a claim abroad might get sticky — especially if they need a police report filed.

            It’s interesting with the global ubiquitous-ization of mobile phones it’s seemed to make people more sympathetic about their potential loss. Like, they can relate — even in backwater, poor places. They get their shit stolen too and these devices are no longer just toys for rich foreigners. It’s interesting how same-paged the world’s tech has become. I’m not sure if this has ever happened before.

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