Stupid Tip of the Day: 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree To Watch Someone’s Belongings

So there you are at the airport, waiting for your flight at the gate; or, perhaps you are relaxing in an airport lounge, minding your own business — and then someone comes along and asks you to watch his or her bag or other item so that he or she can go somewhere else to do whatever he or she needs to do.

Stupid Tip of the Day: 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree To Watch Someone’s Belongings

Airport Gate

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Your initial instinct may be to be a nice fellow human being and convince you to say “yes” and accept the responsibility — but you should not do so for four reasons.

1. You Become Responsible For Protecting the Item

seats gate

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

One may argue that once you agree to watch the item for a complete stranger, you have entered into an oral contract — meaning that you are responsible for the item and its contents, if it contains anything.

If the item is suddenly missing before its owner returns, you would technically be responsible for the loss because you accepted responsibility to guard it — and the owner could attempt to collect compensation from you. Although the option would typically be extreme, a lawsuit is not out of the question.

2. You Become Responsible For What Is Inside of the Item

Airport gate Dublin

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Most people who respond in the affirmative to watch the item do not ask what is inside of it. Could important documents be in there? How about valuables — such as jewelry, for example?

Although the above could fall under number 1, what if drugs, weapons or other illegal contraband are in the bag — and you are caught with it by members of law enforcement? You may very well be able to explain your way out of what it is doing in your possession — but do you really want to go through the trouble in the first place in the unlikely event that it could possibly happen?

3. The Moral Dilemma: Do You Miss Your Flight?

TAP Air Portugal

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

I was recently told of a story in which someone regretted agreeing to watch the bag of someone else while waiting for a flight. Boarding had started; and the owner had not yet returned.

Do you miss the flight and wait for the person to return? Of course not. After all, the owner may return and thank you profusely for watching the bag — but do you think that person will compensate you for missing your flight? Again, of course not.

You could try to pawn off the bag to someone else for that person to watch it — but then you would be committing the same thoughtless request as the owner of the item; and even if another person accepts the responsibility, he or she will not know what the owner looks like.

4. Unattended Bags Violate Airport Security Rules

airport security checkpoint

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

If an item is technically not with its owner, it is considered by the Transportation Security Administration as an unattended bag and can possibly be considered suspicious activity. Passengers are required to maintain control over their own property, items and belongings at all times while beyond the security checkpoint at the airport — and you may be obligated to report the incident to law enforcement officers, depending on the circumstances.


Escalator Chicago O’Hare Airport

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

If someone approaches you to watch his or her belongings, your life would be much easier if you just politely say no and advise that the person asks an official employee at the airport as to what to do. Although the possibility of encountering the aforementioned potential pitfalls are unlikely should you accept the responsibility, your refusal to do so will not expose you to those risks — other than possibly being considered a jerk for denying the request — and you will be simultaneously protecting your safety and the safety of other fellow passengers in the process.

In other words, the risks of accepting the responsibility are just not worth your trouble.

Waiting for an airplane at the gates of Bahrain International Airport in the photograph at the top of this article. All photographs ©2014, ©2015, ©2017 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Stupid Tip of the Day: 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree To Watch Someone’s Belongings”

  1. Matt says:

    As George Costanza would say, we are living in a society. We can all look out for one another. If a solo traveler, myself included, needs to use the restroom, we should be willing to watch their stuff for a few minutes so that they don’t have to schlep it with them. No one is asking us to skip our flight or lie to security about whether or not a bag belongs to us. If security confiscates a bag we can tell the owner exactly where to find it when they return.

    You’re being way paranoid and overthinking this, Brian.

  2. Ryan says:

    I have to agree with @Matt above. There may be times where one should decline based on the circumstances, but I wouldn’t make that my default response.

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