You may have heard of this touching story out of Atlanta recently of a homeless man returning a wallet and getting an unexpected (and generous) reward from Omni Hotel at CNN Center. I hope such an act springboards him into more fortunate times.

I happened to hear this story as my wife and I were off to Las Vegas for a short vacation and my annual running of the Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon down the Vegas strip on Sunday evening. This is one of my favorite runs of the year as it’s the only time besides New Year’s Eve that the strip is closed down as 40,000+ runners swarm from the south end Welcome to Las Vegas sign by the airport to the old downtown Vegas and back.

With the run on Sunday evening, we’d make Friday our fun night out in the city that never sleeps. We started with dinner at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill inside Cosmopolitan, where we were staying. Our friend, Vegas resident, and always accommodating host, @VegasBen, met us for dinner. My wife, Emily, opted for their famous Fried Chicken “Blue Ribbon Style” which did not disappoint! We were off to a good start!

Fried Chicken "Blue Ribbon Style" with wasabi and honey dipping sauce ... until we meet again!

Fried Chicken “Blue Ribbon Style” with wasabi and honey dipping sauce … until we meet again!

Next stops: grab a couple cocktails at one of the best views in Vegas at the Foundation Room at the House of Blues atop Mandalay Bay. It was a perfect night to perch outside and meet up with another couple before stepping up the pace of the night at The Bank at Bellagio with one of my favorite DJs spinning, @DJIkon. A table upstairs next to DJ Ikon (always have respect for what they do). Drinks. Dancing. Then, off to see another Vegas fav @djexodus at Moon at Palms. Needless to say, it was a fun night!

Cocktails outside at the Foundation Room, 64 floors up at Mandalay Bay!

Cocktails outside at the Foundation Room, 64 floors up at Mandalay Bay!

After a late night (or early morning?) cab back to Cosmopolitan, we passed out with every intention of sleeping in and having a relaxing day for our Saturday. I leisurely crawled out of bed. The late morning sun lit up the room as I could hear the Bellagio fountains dancing outside. My thoughts quickly went to getting a bite to eat and walking around in this mild November weather. Then I checked my charging cell phone. A text message from Emily’s parents. Contact her bank?! URGENT?! My mind scrambles for a split second before… “Where’s her phone? WHERE’S HER PHONE!?” my mind shouted.

I immediately pull up the iPhone Find Friends app on my phone which we often use to find each other when separated at a mall or otherwise (useful tip, couples!). Of course it should show her location as a pink dot at or just around my blue dot. Of course. But, nope! The dot was a few miles north… and at the location labeled “Tower Shops at Stratosphere.” Noooooo! And that wasn’t all. My wife has the same iPhone case as I that is designed to hold three cards in the case. She had her driver’s license and three credit cards in the case (yes, 4 cards total, a tight fit). I think right there my impulse was to reenacted the scene from A Christmas Story, “Ohhhhh fudddddge!” But like Ralphie, I too didn’t… say… fudge.

But like Ralphie, I too didn’t… say… fudge. I "said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!"

But like Ralphie, I too didn’t… say… fudge. I “said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!”

Our iPhone cases gets a lot of comments when we pull out a card to pay at places. We both love it because it’s one less thing to keep track of and we’re very careful about keeping tabs on our valuables. I often say to the clerk how I love the convenience of not carrying a wallet most the time, followed by a chuckle how it would be bad to misplace it though. That time had come. Honestly, our panic passed pretty quickly as it turned to two questions: what are the best steps to take next and how/where did her phone get lost or stolen?

We both remembered her having it at the Palms in the food court area right before our taxi home. So it could be there? No, we remember Emily looking something up on her phone during the ride home, so maybe it dropped out of her purse while getting out of the cab? Regardless, time was precious. [See “RELATED” links below] Call in the lost/stolen cards and talk to the police to file a report at the least, and maybe even get some help recovering the phone. Maybe. [I do NOT condone using self-help alone to attempt to track and recover a phone. Let police do their job.]

My days as a police officer really came before the “age of cell phones”, but as an attorney, I have prosecuted several cases where cell phone tracking was involved to successfully recovering a phone and otherwise solving a crime. But this was Las Vegas, where not only do they have thousands of visitors from around the world, they have them literally stacked on top of one another in one mega resort and casino after another. We had little hope, and people we mentioned our trouble to along the way certainly felt the same way. “Give up! Hope it doesn’t spoil your trip. Go have fun!” they’d say.

Canceling two of the credit cards was no problem and, to our shock, no new transactions were reported since we last used either one. I called the non-emergency 3-1-1 and filed a report in a few minutes over the phone which was later emailed to me (pretty cool and efficient!). And as I had expected, the dispatch officer confirmed that metro police do not assist with cell phone tracking.

As Emily worked on cancelling her final bank credit card, we figured why not hop in a taxi and head up north. As the inset screenshot shows, her phone was still reading the same spot at Stratosphere as we drove north on the I-15 towards it.

Tracking a lost iPhone and credit cards to shopping? That can't be good.

Tracking a lost iPhone and credit cards to shopping? That can’t be good.

In the back of my mind I thought maybe it was turned in to casino security (I know, fat chance) or maybe an ambitious security officer at the Stratosphere might be game for helping track down the phone. No, not the leisurely stroll around Vegas I had in mind for the day, but something about putting up a few hundred dollars for a new iPhone kept me on track.

Emily gets in touch with her bank for the final credit card. “Oh, really?… OH, really! Alright [writes down some notes]. Okay then. Thank you!” My mind raced to the worst. This must have been the card “they” have been racking up their shopping tab on! Here it comes. Let me have it! So, what’d they say? “They were calling to say a guy named Mark found my phone and cards in a taxi and he has them. They gave me his number.”

Huh? Huh! She calls. Sure enough, he has the phone in his room at Stratosphere, but he’s out at another casino at the moment. We plan to meet up with him later and, in the meantime, do some shopping of our own. The celebratory mood engulfs us to a degree, but I still await full satisfaction until the items are back in hand. We ponder on how to thank him. I figured I’d tell the story to the hotel front desk manager to see if the Stratosphere would be interested in rewarding his actions. The manager, Brandon, generously offered to comp our Good Samaritan “Mark” dinner at their best restaurant! Very cool!

Phone and all recovered, thanks to our new friend, Mark!

Phone and all recovered, thanks to our new friend, Mark!

Gratitude and thanks often come only from the top layer: what we have, whether earned or given to us. But you may find an even deeper sense of gratitude and thanks when you are offered help from another.

Ourselves and others had quickly giving up any hope on a lost iPhone, credit cards, and ID. We were guilty of jumping immediately to the worst case scenario: iPhone, gone. Credit cards, criminal shopping spree. ID, stolen. Mark proved us all wrong.

We are grateful and give thanks to Mark for his help, and hope this story inspires you to give a similar gift to family, friends… or a complete stranger! Pass it forward!

How will you measure your gratitude this Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
~Mark @travelblawg


  • Tips on dealing with a lost or stolen wallet here.
  • TSA’s “Can you fly without an ID?” (Yes!) here.
  • Blogger @VeryGoodPoints trekked to Alaska and was seemingly having a great trip until her brand new, and quite expensive, camera was left in a taxi, never to be seen again (read her story here). While the financial and confidence in one’s fellow man losses were heavy, she put the disappointment behind her and moved on to enjoy the remainder of her trip.


Follow Me!