Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The ricklibrarian Guide to Losing Your Wallet

Losing things. Sunglasses, hats, umbrellas, and jackets are among the things I have lost. I am not alone losing things. Library users often lose diskettes, school assignments, library cards, reading glasses, bookmarks, sweaters, gloves, and their own books. The items pile up in the lost and found.

I have a story. The past two weeks have been extraordinary. My daughter sang in her final high school choir concerts, her grandparents came to visit, we visited Chicago tourist sites, we attended the graduation ceremony, and we threw her a party. In the middle of the festivities, I lost my wallet.

I noticed that I did not have my wallet when Bonnie and I stood in front of a supermarket display of flowers. We were on our way to the last choir concert, and I had at the last moment changed my mind about which pants to wear. I assumed the wallet was in the other pants at home. I asked Bonnie to drive the rest of the evening. We attended the concert and went for dessert before going home.

When I got home, I found the wallet was not in the other pants. It was not on the bed, under the bed, behind the bed, on the dresser, in the dresser, on the bookshelves, in the closet, on the window sill, or on the night stand. It was not by the computer, in a jacket, by the front door, in the kitchen, or on the dining room table, nor was it in the recycling, in the waste baskets, in the clothes hamper, in the flower beds, or in the cat's litter box. I searched both cars completely. I looked everywhere and then I looked everywhere again.

I called the supermarket early in the search. The woman at the customer service desk checked the lost and found and then called around other departments. It had not been found, but she recommended calling back in the morning as there was a chance the overnight custodial crew would find it.

I cancelled my credit card. The agent said there was no indication that it had been used that day, and I would get a call about any further charges that appeared. Then I started trying to remember everything that I had in the wallet - my driver's license, library cards, health insurance card, Morton Arboretum pass, museum memberships, voter's registration, supermarket cards, a note with some little used passwords, emergency contacts, and a little cash.

I also remembered that my Social Security card was in the wallet. Bonnie said that I should not have been carrying it around. Of course, she was right, as the number is exactly what a dishonest person would like to find. I last showed the card to an employer fifteen years ago. It should not have been there.

I called the supermarket again in the morning, but it had not been turned in to the customer service desk. I searched the house, car, and yard again. I got a ride to the driver's license facility and for an hour watched bad public service in action. I came home, double-checked some unlikely spots in the house, and gave up the search.

Two days later, I attended my daughter's graduation ceremony. As I made my way out of the stadium, a woman called to me, "Mr. Roche, do you know the supermarket has your wallet?" She said that it was in a drawer at the camera department, which happens to be about ten feet away from the flower display.

We went straight to the supermarket, and I went in to the camera counter. I asked the woman behind the counter, who replied that she had not heard about a lost wallet. She opened several drawers and then consulted with another employee who said all wallets are supposed to go to the customer service desk. So I went to that desk. The agent there opened a drawer and pulled out my wallet, for which I thanked her. She said that she had tried to call me but that my phone was not in service. (Perhaps she misdialed.) I quickly checked and found all the cards and cash undisturbed. I was greatly relieved.

As I think back on the episode, I have two questions that will never be answered. How did I manage to drop the wallet from my button-closed pocket? Where was my wallet the two times I called the supermarket?

Here are my hard-learned lessons for those who lose things.

Lesson 1: When you discover something is missing, look around your immediate location. Do not assume it is somewhere else. If I had turned around, I would have probably seen the wallet on the floor behind me.

Lesson 2: Do not give up the search too quickly. I should have made a third call to the supermarket.

Lesson 3: Do not carry your Social Security card. Put it somewhere safer.

I also have advice for supermarkets, shops of all types, restaurants, community centers, schools, and libraries.

Lesson 4: Have one place that lost and found items go.

Lesson 5: Make sure everyone on the staff knows the lost and found place.

Lesson 6: When the owner of the item can be identified, call more than once.

People will continue to lose things, some of which are important. With care and consistency, we can reduce their distress and help them find what they have lost.


Maggie said...

What a headache! Glad you didn't have to recheck the kitty litter! :D

Norma said...

The state of Ohio and Ohio State University Research Foundation has been carelessly losing our information this year--the last being on a back up tape of employees and tax payers information left in an unlocked car of an intern! So I'm not terribly sure not carrying my SS card makes any difference.

But still, good advice.