The Rip Off Britain team investigate viewers' holiday issues. They are in Barcelona, examining how police are tackling the city's reputation as the pickpocketing capital of Europe.
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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your
holidays and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
A holiday's supposed to be a time of relaxing, not a time of more stress
and certainly not a time of stress whilst you're away.
It's just annoying that you think, what next,
what are they going to put a charge on next?
So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake, or, indeed, a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you are out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money, this is Rip Off Britain.
Hello, and welcome to Rip Off Britain
from the sunny island of Tenerife,
where we're investigating all manner of problems to do
with holidays and travel.
And, you know, whilst time away really should be
about getting a rest, the opposite can happen
if you find yourself becoming the victim of a crime.
Now, most places around the world welcome tourists with open arms,
but I'm afraid there are those to whom they will always be seen as
rich and easy pickings and, wherever you are in the world,
there will be criminals looking for any opportunity they can,
to get their hands on your cash or, indeed, your belongings.
But today's programme is all about making sure
that doesn't happen to you.
And, as we hear about all the horrible things that can happen when
you let your guard down, we'll have plenty of tips to make sure that
your time on holiday is much easier
-and the criminals' lives much harder.
we're out with the police catching pickpockets in Barcelona to
see how the city is tackling its reputation for petty crime.
Somebody came and banged on the table as a distraction and snatched
a bag and was away!
And what's the hotel's responsibility if someone's able to
break into your room?
As we looked round, it just absolutely dawned on me,
"Oh, my lord, we've been burgled!" We were just shocked, weren't we?
When we're on holiday, the fact that we're tourists will very often just
stick out a mile.
We've got rucksacks on our back,
we're looking at maps or guidebooks and, of course,
we're taking photographs.
All dead giveaways to pickpockets who are hoping to catch us off-guard
and make off with whatever they can get their hands on.
The good news is that in holiday resorts around the world,
dedicated teams of undercover police are out in force to protect us,
so we went out with one of those teams in Barcelona,
to see just what exactly they are doing to catch the criminals and,
most importantly, to keep your valuables safe.
Watch this crowd at traffic lights in Romania.
The man in the blue cap is a pickpocket.
You can see that he's unzipping the rucksack of the man in front.
His accomplice, in the red, keeping watch.
In a split second, he's got the mobile phone.
His victim, none the wiser.
And in this footage from Kuala Lumpur,
a tourist is standing at a takeaway counter.
Her bag is next to her and a pair of thieves is ready to pounce.
The man in the white T-shirt distracts her,
while the other one dips into her bag and takes her purse.
The woman didn't see it happen.
Similar scenes are played out every day in cities across the world,
but in particular in Barcelona.
Gaudi's architecture, the Picasso Museum and the famous
Las Ramblas shopping street have made the Spanish city a favourite
weekend break destination.
But it's considered Europe's pickpocketing capital
with a reported 300 incidents of thefts every day.
Trying to catch those criminals is the responsibility of this team,
Catalonia's urban police unit, highly-trained,
eagle-eyed, plainclothes cops who walk amongst the crowded streets,
Every morning, the team are brought together and given
a list of mugshots, faces of people known to have committed
pickpocketing crimes and other scams targeting tourists
abroad, and they're all repeat offenders that police believe
are still very much active.
Ana has been with this department 12 years.
She has a photographic memory and can spot a thief a mile off.
Years of mingling with tourists and catching criminals means if there's
a pickpocket in the vicinity, she'll know who it is.
And, today, she'll be looking in particular for people whose faces
were on that list who she knows have previously been arrested for
pickpocketing or other crimes, and are still considered a risk.
If she spots any of them, she can stop and search them right away.
And if they have any stolen items on them, she'll be able to arrest them.
Normally, when you travel to a foreign country, you're a tourist,
you're not thinking about pickpockets.
And you're not paying enough attention to your belongings.
So, they know that, they know that.
And that's why the tourist people are probably the perfect victims.
Today, only ten minutes into her shift, Ana receives a call.
Around here, I don't know where exactly.
Two suspected pickpockets are close by.
A quick check on the police database confirms they have previously been
arrested, so Ana wants to stop and search them to make sure that
they're not doing the same again.
The man is standing in black and the one with the ribbon.
Ana spots the two standing by the Metro.
And they are pickpockets.
She follows the two men without, it seems, being seen.
And they managed to shake her off their trail.
Probably they went inside the Metro.
Once the thieves go underground, it's virtually impossible to catch
them and, sure enough, this time they've gone.
Ana's certain that the two men will once again be targeting tourists
and they've managed to slip through her fingers.
It's frustrating, because you know they are staying and you can do
nothing, because in one second you have them and
in the moment that you hide, you have the risk to lose them, so...
..it's all so frustrating.
We will look for them.
Police in Barcelona admit that this low-level street crime
is a serious problem.
That's why Ana's department works in shifts to patrol
the streets 24 hours a day and why the national government has issued
warnings to tourists to be careful.
But places like this, Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece,
the Sagrada Familia, continue to offer rich pickings for thieves.
So, spotting them amongst the crowd
has become part of Ana's daily routine.
All these people are staring at the Sagrada Familia and we're looking
for some thief that is only seeing the backpacks, perfect victim.
Now, you have a person taking pictures, with a bag, the backpack
in the back out of their control. They can open them up,
open the zip, and take anything inside.
They're absolutely perfect victims for our pickpockets,
so we're looking for anyone that is looking at the same things as me.
Ana knows every trick in the thieves' book.
They use big maps to open, to hide their hands with big maps
to open zips and take from inside.
OK, there are many pickpockets, you have to take care.
The backpack in the front.
Good for you.
As Ana and her colleagues move on, it's approaching lunchtime,
a golden opportunity for opportunistic pickpockets.
According to the police records,
the man in the blue shirt is a prolific pickpocket,
known to target tourists in restaurants and Ana has spotted him.
She doesn't want to let the man out of her sight.
But she cannot be spotted.
She wants to catch the man to
make sure that he doesn't have any stolen belongings in his bag.
We will stop him.
If he does, Ana will arrest him.
But the man has nothing but his own possessions in his bag and Ana has
to let him go.
In the bag, he is not carrying anything, everything is normal.
For the moment, we can't do anything with him.
It's reckoned Barcelona has at least 200 pickpockets operating each day.
In this city of tourists, there are so many targets
and so many unattended bags and mobile phones,
especially in cafes like this one.
The pickpockets acting near restaurants,
what they will look is inside these kind of restaurants.
These two people is writing with a computer, so they won't be able
to see if anyone take the bag from the side.
Thieves distracting diners is a common way to steal bags and there's
another long-practised trick that all tourists should be aware of.
This first table, the two women have a telephone on the table.
There's another kind of pickpocket.
They use paper, they write anything, like,
I am poor, I need to eat, give me a coin.
So, they show the paper written, asking for the coin,
they put it on the table, on the telephone,
and when they take it off, the telephone is here.
In terms of personal safety,
Barcelona is among the top five safest cities in Europe.
It's low-level street crime that creates problems for tourists and,
yet again, in a busy crowd, Ana spots another two people that
the police force class as repeat offenders.
Two people, two women, young women, one blonde, one dark.
With their shirts, blue, red and white, over there.
Ana says these well-dressed women have been known to steal from
wealthy tourists, and once she's checked that the girls
are on the official police list, she's in hot pursuit.
SHE SPEAKS IN SPANISH
Normally, they steal inside shops.
They steal wallets from inside the bags.
We've got them there.
Ana wants to stop the pair before they go into any more shops,
potentially to steal but, as before, she has to check
they are definitely on the police's most wanted list
before she can stop and search them.
If she then finds stolen goods on them, she can arrest them.
They're in the city centre trying to steal any wallet from any bag.
As you can see, they are well-dressed, they are friendly,
they are nice people, but they are pickpockets.
It's their profession.
These two are carrying a range of useful disguises,
the sort typically employed by any pickpocket.
We're again looking for some...
..anything that is not theirs, any wallet,
any document from any victim, but nothing for the moment.
Nothing. We have the shirt, one jacket to change the colour...
The women have no stolen property in their bags,
but Ana wants them to know that she and her team
are keeping tabs on them.
What they do is go into shops, expensive shops, probably Gucci,
Emporio or Chanel, they go inside, open bags from victims
and take the wallet from inside.
Despite protesting their innocence, the way they answer our producer's
next question certainly sounds like some sort of confession.
But, for now, as the women have got nothing on them,
Ana has to let them go.
We weren't lucky again.
Well, she says she was unlucky, but, in fact,
even in the time we'd been with her, Ana's managed to spot no less than
seven previously convicted pickpockets
in Barcelona's busy streets.
Every day, you're in the middle of the city,
just having a look and, suddenly, between the crowd,
you can see two pickpockets working in front of you and the job begins.
So, every day is similar to this.
So, while today she's made no arrests, those Ana has stopped
have been given a clear warning that she's on their tails
and by confronting or pursuing them, she hopes she'll at least
have stopped tourists in the immediate vicinity from having
their valuables stolen.
Better yet, you've been able to pick up some tips to make sure that
whichever city you visit next, no pickpocket will be getting
their hands on your stuff, either.
Our travel expert, Simon Calder, has all the secrets to save you money on your travels.
He's full of tips on everything from
how to avoid the crowds,
to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.
This time, he's in Paris.
Despite recent tragic events,
Paris remains our favourite foreign city by a mile and from wherever you
are in the UK, it's pretty accessible, too.
You might be thinking, "Oh, I went there five years ago.
"It won't have changed much."
Well, you'd be wrong.
The first time I came to Paris as a backpacker,
I camped in the Bois du Boulogne,
the woodland on the edge of the French capital.
The Bois du Boulogne has been miraculously transformed,
with the addition of a "vaisseau de verre,"
a glass ship, housing the Louis Vuitton Foundation.
The architect, Frank Ghery,
deployed 3,600 glass panels to form dozen sails in this
modern art space, which also offers new views of the city.
The usual admission fee of 16 euros is a bit steep,
so come along on Friday nights between 7 and 11
where you'll find you get two tickets for the price of one.
There's an art to saving money at museums in Paris.
The admission for the Rodin is 10 euros, but you can get in
for just 4, so long as you're a citizen of an EU country,
for the time being, and you're under 25.
If, like me, you narrowly missed that last qualification,
don't worry, just come along on the first Sunday of the month
and the same discount applies.
Paris is the kind of city where getting around can be
more of a pleasure than a pain,
largely because there are so many ways you can do it,
and Simon would always choose one in particular.
My personal favourite, the bikes.
The citywide rent-it-here, leave-it-there bike scheme,
known as Velib, is tremendous value.
For less than the price of a single metro ticket,
you get unlimited use of bikes all day long.
And with over 400 miles of cycle paths in Paris,
it's the cheapest way of getting around, apart from walking, that is.
But, if you pull up for a coffee, watch out,
because it can cost you a packet.
If you're regular visitor to Paris,
you'll be wearily accustomed to the notion that drinking anything...
Ah, merci beaucoup!
..on the terrace of a cafe trebles the cost.
Thankfully, in some places, that tradition is beginning to change.
Even so, you could still be forking out up to six euros for a coffee
instead of two if you sit at the bar.
But old Parisian customs are changing,
and that is also true when it comes to hotels.
With nearly 2,000 in the city, competition between them means
that if you follow Simon's last bit of advice,
you can save while you sleep.
A few years ago, I found it tricky to get a decent Paris hotel room
for under 100 euros a night. But, these days, it seems hoteliers are
prepared to negotiate, so don't be shy about bargaining.
You might get the same room on a quiet night for 60 or 70 euros,
so you can spend the difference on indulgence.
Now, in the past in this programme, we've explored how hotels can react
if you're unlucky enough to have some of your possessions stolen from
your room when you're on holiday abroad.
And it turns out that you simply have not got the level of protection
that, perhaps, you'd hope for.
Well, it seems that the same is true if the theft was from a hotel
in the UK, because while you might assume that if your room
has been broken into and valuables taken,
that the buck stops with the hotel,
but I'm afraid it's not that simple.
Because, while the law does put some liability on the place where you're
staying, wait until you hear just how limited that liability is.
Now, think of a weekend in a classy four-star hotel.
And it's luxuries like these that spring to mind.
Not a room like a crime scene,
with rifled-through luggage strewn all over the place.
It was the last thing this group of friends imagined when they wangled
an eagerly anticipated weekend away.
It's really important that we spend time together.
We always stay overnight so we can do the getting ready together,
or the pamper and, then, in the evening,
we have a meal and things like that. We just love it.
For friends Lynn, Caroline and Jackie, the QHotel's
Park Royal Hotel in Cheshire was the perfect backdrop for
their pre-Christmas get-together back in December 2014.
We were all really excited to be spending some good quality
girl time, and it was Christmas, and we were going to be exchanging
gifts, and having a giggle, and hanging out at the spa.
It was a real fun time for us.
Following a lovely, busy day catching up,
chilling out and capped off with dinner, the friends then decided to
retire to their room for some peace and quiet.
We thought we'd just go back up to the room and just carry on having
a little chat up there, where it was more private.
But, no sooner had they turned the key in the lock of their first-floor
room, they realised it was not how they left it.
When we first opened the door,
it was obvious that something was wrong,
because the window was open and it was December,
-so we would not have left it...
-The room was freezing, wasn't it?
-It was cold.
-And the curtains were blowing.
It was only when they switched on the light that what had happened
-became crystal clear.
-My handbag was upside down and I sort of thought,
I didn't leave that... And then we looked at each other and said,
"Did anybody leave the window open?"
And, as we looked round, it just absolutely dawned on me.
"Oh, my lord, we've been burgled!
Unfortunately for the ladies, the room didn't have a safe and,
while they had tried to store their possessions out of sight,
the thieves had still made off with thousands of pounds
worth of jewellery, cash and much more.
And it took us a while to really work out what had been taken,
which was pretty much everything.
As their losses sank in, Jackie noticed that her car keys, too,
-had also been taken.
-When I realised my car keys had gone,
I just ran downstairs into the car park and I thought,
"Oh, my lord, my car's gone."
The ladies immediately called the hotel reception and, in turn,
they called the police.
Now, when the police arrived, they confirmed one of the windows
had been forced open and accessed via the flat roof below.
I would have expected it to be much more of a secure building,
given that there was a flat roof underneath.
The window locks didn't appear robust in any way, shape or form.
By the time the police had finished their investigation,
it was the early hours of the morning,
so, very keen to get back home, the ladies arranged to come back
once again in the New Year to discuss with the manager
exactly what had happened.
But what the hotel told them wasn't exactly what they'd anticipated.
The hotel didn't accept responsibility for the loss of any
of our belongings. I was bewildered.
We thought because they'd broken in through their window,
which we thought, well, we're going to be covered by the hotel for
valuables that went missing out of the room or something,
-and nothing at all, no. Nothing.
-We were shocked.
The hotel was unwilling to accept liability for the theft.
Instead, offering £100 to each of the guests and a free stay at any of
the group's properties at a future date.
But for Lynne, Caroline and Jackie, it was a real blow.
I was just insulted.
Is that it? Is that the full extent of your responsibility for what
happened on that evening?
But, however disappointed the ladies may have felt,
the hotel was well within the law in offering them £100.
And that's because of legislation first introduced 60 years ago.
The Hotel Proprietors Act 1956 says under certain circumstances,
hotel owners may be liable to make good any loss or damage to a guest's
possessions, but only to a maximum of £100.
Now, when the act came into force,
£100 would have been worth around £2,000 in today's money.
And, with the average annual earnings back then
being around £500, it was a significant amount.
But although the times and salaries have changed considerably since,
the fixed liability sum of £100 hasn't, something that
solicitor Gary Wrightcroft believes really needs to change.
I think it's really shocking that the law hasn't moved on
in the last 60 years
and that the amount of compensation you can claim as a hotel guest
has remained the same since 1956.
It remains £50 for one item or £100 for a group of items,
if you're staying in a hotel outside of London.
So, the Government needs to step up to the plate here and change the law
and make it better for consumers, and safer for them.
That will also make it more of an incentive for hotel owners
to make your goods safe when you stay with them.
In fact, in London, the law has, to some extent,
kept pace with inflation.
There, the limits a hotel is liable to pay out in the case
of loss or damage to a resident's possessions on its property
That's down to the London Local Authority's Act of 2004,
introduced at the request of the Metropolitan Police in a bid to
encourage London hotels, which had a significant problem with thefts,
to improve their security.
One of the reasons that the Metropolitan Police wanted
the figure increased for London back in 2004
is because there was a spate of thefts from hotels in London.
So, I think increasing the strict liability limit,
whereby hotel owners have to pay compensation,
would make hotel owners raise their game, in terms of making sure that
when you stay at hotels, your goods are safe.
So, while in this case, Caroline and Jackie were able to claim
for the majority of their missing belongings on their car and
home insurance, Lynne, I'm afraid, didn't have the same cover
and as a result, she's been left about £2,000 out of pocket.
When you go on holiday in this country, you actually don't even
think about having travel insurance to stay in a local hotel
in an area that you're familiar with.
It just did not occur to me to take out holiday insurance.
When we spoke to QHotels about the theft, it said,
"It's unpleasant for everyone involved when the crime is committed
"and it's regrettable that an incident took place,
"spoiling these ladies' stay."
But it stressed that, "As soon as the theft was reported
"to hotel staff, police were called to investigate."
And it doesn't accept that security measures were inadequate,
pointing out that reports into the crime concluded,
"That considerable force was used to gain entry to the room."
The company went on to say that
it had exceeded its legal requirement
in this particular case, having made an additional gesture of
goodwill, which actually it wasn't obliged to do.
But it is sorry that the ladies don't feel that the offer of
compensation was sufficient under the circumstances.
So, if you want to avoid being seriously out of pocket if things do
go missing, then there are some very easy ways to protect yourself.
If you're going to stay at a hotel in the UK, then take precautions.
Don't take valuable items unless you really have to.
If you do have to take valuable items,
then ask the hotel if there is a safe for you to use in the room,
and, if there is, then use it.
Even if there is a safe, you may want to ask the hotel to look after
the items themselves behind reception. And, if they do that,
they take on responsibility for the items, and, if they are lost,
then you're entitled to be compensated for those items at full value.
And whilst this very sound advice is useful for future trips,
the ladies are still left reeling from their experience.
You do presume, though, that when you stay in a hotel,
that they are going to take good care of you and your belongings.
And when you think how much you've lost, including a car,
£100 does not go very far whatsoever, does it?
If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,
then get in touch with us via our Facebook page, BBC Rip Off Britain,
our website, bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain,
or e-mail us at:
Or, if you want to send us a letter,
then our new address is:
Well, the cautionary tales that we've heard today really are
a reminder that you do need to keep your wits about you at all times,
even when you're away on holiday.
You just never know when some sort of opportunist or thief might be
there to take advantage of you.
But what I did find really interesting during the programme and
reassuring, was all the work that Ana and her team in Barcelona are
doing to get one step ahead of the pickpockets and stop them before
they steal anything.
I thought it was fabulous to see how she's always on the lookout and,
as you can tell, it really is true that she never, ever forgets a face.
-A talent I only wish I shared and don't get me started on names.
But that's all we've got time for today.
We hope your next trip is relaxed and incident-free,
but if for whatever reason it's not, please do let us know and it might
be your experience we're sharing on a future programme.
For now, though, it's hasta la vista from us.
Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigations viewers' travel and holiday disasters, with unmissable tips to keep your next trip on track and on budget.
The team is in Barcelona, with exclusive access to how police are tackling the city's reputation as the pickpocketing capital of Europe. And, as a group of friends explains how a weekend away was ruined when thieves broke into their hotel room, surprising truths are revealed about what you are entitled to if the same thing happens to you.
Plus tips for saving money on a trip to Paris from travel expert Simon Calder and advice on making sure you have the right travel insurance.