Bag Snatchers, Monzo, and a night of adventure in London.

This week I had my bag stolen in London. This is how I ended up getting everything back (plus a bonus bottle of Jack Daniels).

It’s 19.30 on Thursday evening and I’ve just arrived at the Rack & Tenter pub near Moorgate station. We’re in London running the Ignite Accelerator offsite, and we’ve just finished a full on two days of workshops and mentoring with a group of really interesting companies. The whole Ignite team is in the pub, plus a few of our alumni, and we’re all on a high from the last couple of days.

During the two day offsite we’ve been running presentations, filming talks and photographing the sessions and I’m carrying my GoBag full of our gear – Macbook, iPad Pro, Go Pro 5, Canon 100D and 1TB HD full of recorded talks from previous offsites. Then there’s my personal stuff in there too – moleskin notebook, passport, house key and a few bank cards (Amex, Halifax MasterCard, Monzo).

The pub is busy, we’re all standing round a high table with our bags tucked underneath, but I’m late to the party and the space under the table is pretty full so I put the bag against a pillar just behind me. I’m having an in depth chat with John (from M14 Industries), but every couple of minutes I’m looking over his shoulder to check my bag is still there.

Someone at the table cracks a joke, everyone laughs, John and I join in the conversation for a minute. Then we go back to our chat, and I check on my bag.

Wait.

It’s gone.

Where the fuck is my bag?

I check under the table, it’s not there. I ask the folks round the table if they’ve picked it up. No, no one has seen it.

I walk through the pub to see if anyone has picked it up by mistake. Nothing. I go outside, looking at the people walking away from the pub towards Moorgate underground but I can’t see my bag.

By this point the group I’m with are looking round the pub, and someone has gone to ask the bar staff if they’ve picked it up, or if they can check the CCTV.

Someone suggests that I could try using the Find iPhone app to locate the iPad – it’s got 4G and GPS so I should be able to track it – but it shows up as offline. At that moment my heart sinks – I’m pretty sure now it’s been nicked, and whoever took it will already be on the tube. That’ll give them time to see what they’ve picked up, put my iPad on airplane mode, and they can sort it out later.

Five minutes later the bar manager comes over to say that he’s really sorry but my bag has been stolen and he’s got a clear recording of two guys carrrying it out of the pub. He gives me his details so the police can get in touch with him to request the CCTV footage, and he tells me that it happened at 19.40 – less than 10 minutes ago.

Everyone offers to get me another pint, but I just want to get back to our AirBnB and file a report with the police. I feel angry at myself – everyone knows you don’t leave your bag lying around in a London pub, but I’m just another stupid tourist who’s learnt a very expensive lesson. Then there’s the months of work on my laptop, recordings from dozens of one off workshops, all my notes – everything is gone.

I head off to get the tube, and in the back off my mind I’m secretly hoping they might have pulled the good stuff out and dumped the bag on the platform. It’s a long shot, but it’s worth a check on my way just in case.

As I go down the stairs into the underground my phone buzzes. It’s a notification from Monzo. I’ve just spent £20.58 at Tesco. I click on the transaction and it comes up with a map and an address – Tesco, 268–278 Seven Sisters Road, N4 2HY. I know where they are!

Before I’ve really thought it through I’m running back up the escalator and ordering an Uber to Seven Sisters. My phone keeps buzzing – two more £25 transactions at the same Tesco, then I’m out of funds and they try a couple more times but the transactions are declined.

Now I’m in an Uber, my ETA in Seven Sisters is 20 minutes, and I’ve got no bloody idea what I’m going to do when I get there. Then my phone buzzes again. “Your iPad is back online”. When I’d checked the Find iPhone app earlier it gave me the option to be notified if my iPad came back online – and now they’re off the tube it’s got a signal again! I sign into the app and I now have a live map of where my stuff is!

I text the group to let them know what’s happened and they tell me to ring the police. I call 101 and after a short wait I’m speaking to an operator and I explain the situation. Unfortunately they can’t send anyone to help unless I have an address to give them for a warrant, but they register the case and tell me to call back if I get any more information.

I can see the little dot on the map moving – it looks like they’ve gone into Sainsbury’s, then into a pub on the corner, but I’m still 10 minutes away, in the back of an Uber stuck in traffic. This is a rubbish cop chase.

The group from the pub texts to say that a couple of them have jumped in an uber to head up to Seven Sisters to help, and I feel better to know I’ve got support but I’m still scared about what’s going to happen when I get there.

What if they’ve gone into a flat? What if they get back on the underground? If I find them how am I going to get my bag back? What if they’ve met up with friends? What the hell am I doing in an Uber chasing two professional bag snatchers across London?!

We’re there – the dot on the map shows they’re just round the corner and we’re heading up to some traffic lights when I see two guys step out of a William Hill betting shop on the left hand side of the road, and one of them is wearing my bag.

I ask the Uber driver to drop me off round the corner, but just before I lose sight of them I can see they’re still heading in my direction.

I run back across the road, and head towards where I last saw them. They come round the corner, and they’re talking and laughing about something. My heart is pounding. I look down at the pavement as I walk towards them, they’re only a couple of metres away when I look back up and smile at the one carrying my bag.

I put my hand on his shoulder like I’ve just bumped into an old friend from uni.

“That’s my bag, we’ve got you on CCTV, and I’ve called the police. Give it back.”

They’re just looking at me. I pull the bag off his shoulders, and I put it on. Everything is going very slowly, but it’s probably only been 5 seconds since I walked up to them.

I’m guessing that they’ll have my cards in their pocket rather than in the bag and I might as well get them back too.

“Where are my cards? I want my cards back too.”

That breaks the spell. Time speeds back up. They look at each other, then back at me.

“What Cards? What the fuck are you talking about? You’re crazy – why would we have your cards?”.

We’ve now switched positions. They’re backing away in the direction I came from, but we’re still close. Everyone is just walking past us, no one has noticed anything unusual going on.

“Just put my cards down on the pavement, and then fuck off.”

“Okay, sure. We’ll put your cards down.”

They take three steps away from me, and then break into a sprint down the street.

They’ve gone.

I remember to breathe. I catch the eye of an old man walking past. I want to tell him what I just did, but he looks away and keeps walking.

My hands are shaking. I need to do something to calm myself down. I open up my bag to see what is still in there and what they got to keep. It’s full. It’s all messed up, but it looks like everything is still there. There’s something else too – a bottle of JD that they must have bought with my card!

It’s over. I realise that my stomach is really painful, knotted and cramped from all the adrenaline. I need to get back to our flat, so I call another uber.

I need to tell someone what happened. While I’m in the taxi I call Alex (my wife), and tell her the story. She’s really glad I got my stuff back but she’s much happier that I didn’t get beaten up. I realise that she is probably right. It could’ve ended very differently.

I check the time. It’s just after 20.30. It’s been 50 minutes since they stole my bag, and now, three miles away, I’ve got it back – all thanks to Monzo, the Find iPhone app and Uber.

I message Monzo through the app to tell them what’s happened. They reply back in just a few minutes to check which transactions they were, and then I see them being credited back into my account instantly. They tell me that my new card should arrive in a couple of days.

So I’ve got all my stuff back (minus three cards), I’ve got my money back in my account, and I’m up one bottle of Jack Daniels!

Footnote:

The thieves also tried spending on my Amex and Halifax card. Amex and Halifax both texted me to query the transactions, and although a couple got through they stopped them pretty quickly.

The difference between the customer experience with Monzo and the traditional card issuers was night and day though.

Monzo was what alerted me to where the thieves were in the first place, and then the dispute process was in app, with a real person on the other end (Thanks George), and with an instant refund.

Both Halifax and Amex spotted the fraudulent transactions, but despite having apps on my phone for both Amex and Halifax both banks alerted me by text. They then asked me to call them, navigate a long automated menu, and in end I couldn’t even reach a real person at Halifax.

It’s when things go wrong that you realise the value (or lack of it) of the companies you use. I’ve been a huge advocate of First Direct for years, mainly because of the help they’ve given me when stuck abroad, or dealing with fraud and this situation showed me that Monzo is now in that same league.

Monzo’s advantage isn’t an orange card and a fancy app, it’s that they put the customer experience at the very heart of what they do.

To steal a phrase:

iPad Pro £400

MacBook £1000

GoPro £400

A Bank you can rely on to help you when you need it most? Priceless.

Ps. The folks who jumped in an Uber to come help me included two of our portfolio founders (Thanks Hekla and Josh). So if you’re building an amazing startup, are looking for investment and are also a part-time crime-fighting vigilante then our applications are open: Ignite Accelerator.