Now, about that lost wallet…

A Czech Wallet
Image via Wikipedia

Or, some helpful hints about what to do if you lose yours…

As mentioned in a previous post I had the interesting fortune of discovering my wallet was missing just landing at LAX after a late night flight from the east coast. Upon landing I boarded the shuttle to take us over to the rental car place and during the short trip I noticed it was gone. Yes, I do keep it in my back pocket – a terrible place that has, however, worked for the past 30 plus years I have been keeping one there.

What happened? The entire trip from start to beginning was somewhat late at night and none of the places where I walked had many people – never mind someone who was actually close to me. I believe the scenario of a pickpocket, though possible, is somewhat remote because of these facts. More likely I lost it out of my pocket due to wearing a pair of new brand jeans (for me) as I squirmed to get some sleep in a seat that just would not recline far enough to be comfortable.

Hence, I really thought the airline would be able to recover it. I called immediately and the first snag I encountered was the late hour yielding no one at LAX who could help. So started the waiting game with a case opened both directly by myself with the airline and American Express doing the same thing for me. Amex called me everyday for the 72 hour period they said they would but in the end nothing was found and to date nothing has been returned through any other channel either.

The second snag was a lot bigger than not being able to get a hold of anyone at the airport – it was the fact that I could not leave the rental car lot without a driver’s license. I keep a copy of everything with me yet for a renting a car this does not help in regard to a license. Luckily I was able to get a taxi voucher from the manager and that at least got us to the hotel room in Woodland Hills, CA. All of the credit cards I was traveling with were in the lost wallet so the last thing I did before hitting the sheets was to cancel all of them – none of which had any charges on them that were not mine as of yet.

For the rest of the trip I was fortunate enough to not need any cash and the only charge I made was having American Express book me a limo back to LAX to get on the plane home. All things considered I got off pretty lucky and learned a few things for the future. First, what did I do right?

  • I had a copy of everything in my wallet. Having a copy of my license did not help securing a rental car but it certainly made the job of calling all of the credit card companies either for help or to cancel cards a much easier process especially at midnight (or what was really 3:00 AM on my internal clock). I have passed on any offer of a credit card company to consolidate this process for me and at least in this case I do not believe it really would have made anything any easier. It was good to personally know things were taken care of and what else I needed to do (as in the case of my debit card) to get a replacement when I returned home. Since I live in the world of ‘geek’ my ‘copies’ are all on my iPhone – stored in a secure app that I need to enter a PIN to access.
  • I took passports as identification. For some reason I never take out my driver’s license anymore for traveling domestically. This simple fact saved me from total insanity for the rest of the trip as the passports were not with my wallet. It seems if you are not fortunate enough to have backup ID with you, filing a police report immediately upon discovering your loss is a great idea to enable a more productive conversation with the TSA later. Luckily for me I did not need to test this theory!

What could I have done better?

  • I should have had backup cash separate from my wallet. In fact I usually do just this, yet since it was a short trip I only had a very limited amount of cash in my travel bag that I conserved the heck out of. The lesson learned is no trip is too short not have more cash stored somewhere.
  • I should have divided my credit cards between my wallet and somewhere else. In this case I literally had to cancel everything I had minus the one card I kept at home.
  • I should not keep my wallet in my back pocket. However, in this case I think I am going to continue to ‘should on myself’ and keep it there anyway. I might shift it to a bag to get comfortable in a similar situation but so far one incident in thirty plus years is not a bad track record.
  • I did not have the luxury on this trip but if there is ever a chance to have a backup driver (with obviously their own license) it is something to keep in mind. Having a backup license, at least in the state of New Jersey, however, is illegal.

What did I learn?

  • Credit card companies, especially like American Express, will help you with your needs but they are not going to have any magic wands to get you back in action immediately. The copies of the information that my wallet contained along with the backup ID saved my whole trip and no one is going to do this for you.

Weeks later I have a new wallet, everything in it replaced, and have updated all of my copies to reflect the new information. Next time I will travel smarter and with a little luck this might truly be the first and last time this happens.