Vienna, a wallet, and a barber shop
Some stories are so unbelievable, they must be true. This one is.
On his 6 week tour through Europe, my son Thomas and his girlfriend had just arrived in Vienna, Austria. They checked into their B&B and then went out on the town for some sightseeing. Later that evening I got a Whatsapp voice call from Thomas. My heart dropped… he never calls me. It’s only ever text messages.
“WHAT HAPPENED?” I yelled into the phone. “Are you ok???”
“Not really… I think my wallet was stolen.”
Vienna? How could Austrians do such an awful thing? My first thought was ‘passport’! He quickly confirmed that his passport was safely back in his room. His wallet only held some credit cards, his driver’s license, and an Apple Airtag. Thomas told me that he could see his wallet “moving around” on the Find-My app on his phone, away from the center of town towards the outskirts of Vienna. He asked me if I thought he should go there. I told him that it wasn’t safe, and to go to the police instead. In the meantime, we put a lock on his credit cards.
Thomas found a police station and filed a report. It was now near midnight in Vienna. After listening to his story, the officers suggested to drive with them to the last known location of the Airtag. It was now around midnight in Vienna. The last known location had been a very densely populated area of town, but the Airtag didn’t show a precise location anymore. You may know that Airtags get their location information from pinging to iPhones that are closest to them, but that location information wasn’t availalbe now anymore. So all they could do was check around some garbage bins in the area, just in case, but without success. At this point, they were sure that the wallet was lost and the AirTag destroyed, and there wasn’t much else to be done, so the officers drove them back to their room.
During the next few hours, my anxious mind debated with itself about the worst case scenario: Vienna was very close to Eastern Europe, Russia… those hackers would love a Canadian Driver’s License… credit card scams… stolen identities… Thomas could be arrested by the FBI because someone with his identity tried to blow up a government building somewhere. The possibilities were endless. When sharing my grief with my husband, he just stared at me blankly and asked me if I was ok.
On the financial side, not all was lost. Thomas’s girlfriend still had her credit cards, and we would be able to send some money to her account, so that they could carry on with their booked trips. The next morning they continued with their sightseeing tour of Vienna.
As they were visiting the Karlskirche, Thomas and his girlfriend found a smartphone on the steps to the church. They picked it up and looked around to see if someone may be searching for it. A man seemed to be scanning the ground, so they approached him and quickly verified that he was the owner of the phone. Maybe it was good karma for being helpful, but only 2 minutes after handing the phone back to the thankful owner, Thomas got a Whatsapp message on his own phone from his barber shop in Canada.
Ok, now let’s stop here for a minute. Why would Thomas get a Whatsapp message from the barber shop where he usually gets his hair cut? I’m glad you asked.
The message went something like that: “We just got an email from a gentleman in Vienna who claims to have found your wallet. He didn’t know how to contact you, but there was our loyalty card in the wallet and had the bright idea to email us to get in contact with you, so he can return the wallet to you.”
The barbershop had Thomas’s phone number on file, but their call to him didn’t go through because Thomas had switched SIM cards for his travels overseas. That didn’t deter the office manager of the barber shop though. She went on a quest and finally found my son’s name on Whatsapp and texted him there. Bingo.
Information in hand, Thomas was able to contact the finder of his wallet, a young college student. They met the very same day, and he gave my son his wallet back. Thomas thanked him profusely but the student didn’t want to accept anything for his troubles. He’d be late for his classes, he said, and ran off.
This story still boggles my mind. Thomas had lost his wallet by pulling out a mask from his front pocket. The ear loop got tangled in the wallet, the little wallet slipped out of his pocket and fell on the ground, while Thomas walked away. A passerby (the student) found the wallet and not only did not ignore it, or steal it, or throw it away, he tried is very best to return it to the rightful owner! He probably realized that mailing it to the Canadian address on the Driver’s License would cause delays and issue for the owner, so he put his detective cap on and went above and beyond to find Thomas. And then the barber shop company… they too could have just shrugged their shoulders and marked it off as a phishing attempt, or a scam. Yet they did what they could to locate their customer. I ended up emailing the barber shop to let them know that everything had turned out well, and to thank them. And the office manager at the barber shop told me that the whole office had been rooting for a happy ending.
Sometimes, people are truly amazing. Especially Austrians. And Canadian barber shop employees.