When Karma Isn't a Bitch

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I am prone to losing expensive and/or important items.

I've lost not one but two FitBits - one on the streets of London & another on the mean streets of good old D.C. - never to be seen again. My iPhone was either lost or stolen from a bar on New Year's Eve a few years back, also never to be seen again. I lost a sterling silver Tiffany necklace my grandparents gave me while swimming on a local lake. And I once called the police to (erroneously) insist that someone had stolen my car out of a parking deck.

But I've had good luck, too, even in the face of initial bad luck. I once lost my driver's license in the Boston airport & was surprised when it showed up at my mom's house a few weeks later in a typewriter-addressed envelope. A Days Inn employee called my place of employment when he found my wallet on a city bus & later returned it to me with $180 in cash still inside. And longtime readers of this blog may recall The Great Thanksgiving Miracle of 2011, when a kind US Airways pilot tracked me down on a holiday to return my lost iPad, which he refused to entrust to the airline's shoddy lost & found system.

I try to contribute to good karma & the circle of life & all that hippie jazz by paying it forward whenever possible, & I had the opportunity to do so last week, after I found a lost Garmin Vivo Fit at a bar in Nashville. I spotted the wristband on the dirty, beer-covered floor of a joint called Honky Tonk Central & thought it belonged to one of the girls in my party, so I snatched it up & tossed it in my purse to return to her at a soberer hour. When I learned that her fitness tracker was in fact still on her wrist, I decided to try to track down the owner of the one I'd found.

One afternoon last week, I called Garmin's customer service line, where a rep initially offered to email the owner of the band, who he'd located using the serial number I read him from the bottom of the device. He put me on hold to get things in motion, but when he returned to the line, he reneged on his offer to send its owner my contact info, telling me that Garmin's official policy on such matters is to instruct the finder of a lost device to turn it in to their local police department.

Apparently Garmin feels confident that the cops will go to the effort of returning lost wristbands to their rightful owners. Sending my contact information to the wristband's owner, the rep told me, is a breach of privacy - though I fail to understand how, since they already have her contact info, & I was asking them to share mine. Whatever; he was insistent that they could not contact the wristband's owner on my behalf, & he was actually fairly rude about it, given that I was just calling to do something nice.

Look, I trust the boys (& gals) in blue, but I don't think this is the sort of matter that's worth their time & hard-earned money. On top of that, I recently stopped my local precinct, sobbing, to report a road rage incident & was told that it was "not worth" reporting... so you'll forgive me if I had doubts that my hometown cops were going to give a damn about a lost Garmin from Tennessee. Because that is the most ridiculous policy I've ever heard.

So I hung up. I sent an angry tweet. And then I called Garmin back, hoping for a more sympathetic customer service rep.

And I got one! The second person I spoke to said she would be happy to send my contact information to the wristband's owner, which just goes to show that A) rules are breakable, B) some people don't know (or care) about the rules, & C) if at first you don't succeed, try, try another customer service rep. She thanked me for trying to return the device, then she promptly sent an email to the owner of the lost Vivo Fit to try to make the connection.

The owner emailed me almost immediately, thanking me for getting in touch & offering me a finder's fee &/or the cost of shipping (both of which I turned down because that's not how paying it forward works). She told me I had made her week, & I told her I'll drop it in the mailbox tomorrow, where it should only take a couple of days to reach her... in Cincinnati.

Remembering how grateful I was when strangers returned my difficult-to-replace items - my iPad, my wallet, my driver's license - I'm thrilled to be able to pay it forward & do the same for someone else. It's so easy to do something nice for someone - to try to make someone's day instead of ruining it. They say karma's a bitch, but when it works out, it can be pretty lovely, too.

Take that, stupid Garmin call-the-police policy.

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