Help my Dad Thank Some Random Dutch Guy

Story time!

My mother and father did a European trip a month or so back. They started out in Munich, wound their way through a bit of Northern Germany on a river tour, and ended their trip in Amsterdam.

Overall, it was a great trip for them – Oktoberfest, great weather, wonderful scenery, good food, good beer, nice attractions. My mother even indulged in half of a cookie infused with a substance that still banned in the Eastern US; first time in her life.

The one thing that marred the trip was that Dad got pick-pocketed the day before they left.

Now, if you knew my father at all, you’d understand without being told that this really upset him. I mean, REALLY upset him. To the point where losing his wallet would become the defining moment of the entire trip, eclipsing any pleasurable memories at all. Part of this is that Dad is a guy that has always played straight with everyone his entire life and expects the same from others. Part of it is the fact that pick-pocketing is fairly rare in the US outside of a couple very “touristy” areas like Times Square.

But most of it is that Dad has never thought of himself as a victim or a target. Like me, he’s well in excess of six foot, and he’s always had a football player’s build… albeit running more to flab as he got older. When you’re a big guy, you don’t go through life worrying about being mugged or hassled or molested or whatever by strangers - any street criminal will choose the little guy or the fat guy over the tall muscular guy. Add in the military bearing and haircut, and any criminal might think “cop” as well. So stuff like getting pick-pocketed just doesn’t happen.

But of course now Dad is in his 70s and he doesn’t move as quickly as he used to. Now, he’s just another old guy. He didn’t care about the money (a hundred bucks or so), or having to cancel all their credit cards (no activity), or even losing his ID. He just hated being preyed upon.

All right. Fast-forward to this afternoon. He sent out this email:

I received an interesting envelope in the mail today. It was an International priority mailing with a two Euro, 30 cents stamp, addressed to me. Inside there was another sealed envelope with a note written on the outside. The note was from a Koos Van Scharenburg which said:

[I]“I found your wallet in the railroad when I was at work. I hope that the papers come over. Of course, there was no money. Greetings Koos.”

[/I]Inside the envelope were my two credit cards, my driver’s license, my military ID, my Medicare card, and a picture of my wife. The wallet was not included, most likely because of the cost of sending extra dead weight.

I am in the process of trying to arrange for some sort of appropriate Thank You to Koos, but so far I haven’t been able to find a way to reward him for his efforts without insulting him. The Netherlands Starbucks does not participate in either the Gift Card or the Rewards Card programs. I am searching for some restaurants in the Centraal Station that might offer a gift card, but I cannot locate a website that shows what restaurants are inside the complex. I will keep searching.

So this has restored Dad’s faith in humanity nicely. He may still be a victim, but that’s OK if there are people like Koos who will go out of their way to help a total stranger on the other side of the planet.

Any suggestions on how Dad could say “thank you” to Koos without seeming too patronizing?

Oh, man, what a great story! I wish I had some sort of insight or helpful suggestions, but thanks for sharing that all the same!

Tin, I don’t have any suggestions, but I have lots of family in the Netherlands and will be visiting over the summer. If there’s any way I can leverage either, let me know.

EDIT: Also, hurray Dutchmen!

Http:// will ship to the Netherlands relatively quickly. I’m sure you can find something nice to send him from Amazon, chocolates, tea, candles, truffle salt, stuff like that. Of course you would need his physical address; if he doesn’t feel comfortable providing it you could just give an amazon gift card.

I’d have to talk to Dad to confirm, but my assumption was that there was a return address on the envelope.

Well, there you go then. Nice high-end loose-leaf tea and chocolate truffles from amazon.

Great story. I am happy for your father.

Thanks for the warm and fuzzy feelings after the shitty day I’ve had :)

Faith in humanity: +1.

Cool story, good of your Dad to thank him also.

Great story! And ofcourse: hurray Dutchmen! ;-)

To be honest, I don’t think your dad has to be afraid of offending Koos: it doesn’t at all sound like Koos did it for the reward, so even a thank you, explaining how much the gesture was appreciated, without anything added would be fine. But if he really wants to add something, my advice would be to pick something that’s typical for the city he lives in, or the area he’s from, something like that. That would show he is sending something personal, and that could never, ever offend anyone, IMO.

And last but not least: no matter how big you are, keep an eye (and hand) on your wallet in Amsterdam…

What a great story! In fact, I like this story even better than if the pickpocket had been caught.


Was there in the summer, and got all those warnings too. In my travels I didn’t see anything , but heard the stories. We did a canal boat tour, and the guide was joking about how many of the bikes in the city center are old and crappy because of how many bikes get stolen each year.

It was weird since otherwise walking around the city felt perfectly safe. The most dangerous thing was my father in laws reaction to walking down Nieuwendijk street and seeing his reaction to a shop selling Space Pops being across the street from one selling Dora the Explorer and Superman kids backpacks. Thought he would have an heart attack ;)

But Tin, I absolutely love the story. I also agree that if he wants to send something, make it something local that otherwise wouldn’t be found in Amsterdam.

I would suggest that you encourage your Dad to just pay it forward. Help someone else that is close by would be a silent way to honor Koos and his actions.

Thanks folks – I’ve passed on all the ideas above to my parents. I personally like the idea of sending something local; while a gift certificate or whatever might be useful, a jar of honey from Central Virginia would probably convey Dad’s gratitude better.

Fascinating, as there are essentially no pickpockets in NYC any more. There was a great article on this awhile back; most people don’t carry much cash, stolen credit card numbers are very cheap on the internet, and cellphones are worth much more than their wallets. The only pickpockets left in NYC are over the age of 60, and they aren’t training anyone new.

I lived in Amsterdam for about 6 years, and apart from the occasional bike (even though it was old and crappy) I’ve never had anything stolen, or any other problems for that matter. So Amsterdam really isn’t quite as bad as people believe it to be. But yes, it is a big city (for the Netherlands anyway…) and there are lots of tourists, so pickpocketing does happen fairly often I guess.

By the way: I’d advise anyone to go to Utrecht next time. It’s better! :-)

In an elaborate twist - Koos is actually the pickpocket returning the owner’s personal information. Any tips from the grateful owner is icing on the cake!

Oh who am I kidding. I imagine there is no such thing as a Dutch pickpocket.

Great story! Amsterdam is easily the most beautiful, amazing city I’ve ever visited. Really hope I get the chance to take my wife there someday.

On-topic, a donation to a charity in Koos’ name would be a great way to honor him.

Since all you have is a physical address, maybe print out this thread and send it over along with whatever else, so Koos knows how much we all appreciate his goodwill.

Thank you Koos, for your contribution to the best story I’ve read in a long time!