Yesterday was just another average humidity-laden sixty degree December day in New York City for Brooke Hammerling, founder of the Tech PR agency Brew. She was in a cab returning from dinner with her niece in Manhattan. Loaded with bags, she exited the car not asking for a receipt, or even giving the transaction a second glance.
The cab sped away and she noted how one of her bags felt lighter. Then it dawned on her: Hammerling’s wallet had been left in the car, bank cards, IDs, and all.
She didn’t have the car or medallion number and the cab was already long gone. It was a truly “oh shit” moment. Given that Hammerling is a born-and-bred New Yorker, she was none-too-thrilled.
“These were rookie moves,” she told me.
The following fifteen minutes were ones of panic, just trying to figure out what she was going to do. She was booked for a Hawaiian vacation in less than 48 hours, and now she had no form of ID or any mode of payment. Her first action was canceling her cards.
After the freakout session, she calmed down and did what any normal tech person would do: take to Twitter. Not really to find her wallet, but, as she put it, “more to garner sympathy.”
So she sent the following tweet:
Left my wallet in a NYC cab before I leave on holiday. So hoping someone finds it. Night before vacation. Awesome.—
Brooke Hammerling (@brooke) December 24, 2013
The tweet was met with compassion from her fellow tweeters, along with a few snarky outliers. “Jason Hirschorn and Peter Kafka were slightly making fun of me,” she said. But Twitter was still serving its purpose for the moment: providing Hammerling with “just a distraction, nothing more than that.”
Then a random account appeared in “Mentions” inbox. But this one wasn’t directed at Hammerling’s original tweet, but to Business Insider’s Steve Kovach who had responded to her. It read: “@brooke @stevekovach I have your wallet call Mark…” and then listed a phone number.
Could this be? It seemed suspicious. The account’s avatar was a Twitter egg, meaning the creator had spent no time customizing it, and it had zero followers and only that one tweet. Hammerling texted Kovach his thoughts on it. He agreed that it could be shady, and suggested she ask this “Mark” to verify.
She did so and received this response:
Maybe he did have her wallet after all. Perhaps this was not some strange bot prowling for lost wallets on Twitter (which, admittedly, the account could have been accused of), but just some guy named Mark. She called him and, indeed, this was the case.
Not ten minutes go by and Hammeriling was cruising uptown in an Uber car (which, thankfully, already had her financial information) en route to the Ritz Carleton Central Park, where she met Mark, a Chicagoan in New York on a Christmas holiday.
Mark’s story goes thus: he was in a cab with his children who noticed the stray wallet lying on the car’s floor. (Hammerling noted that there must have been two or three rides between when she left the cab and when Mark got in, because the locations didn’t match up in the least.)
Mark and his offspring snatched the wallet knowing no good could come from leaving a stray Louis Vuitton wallet alone in a New York Cab. Once they got back to the hotel they tried to find out who this Brooke Hammerling was. Luckily, Hammerling is quite Google-able.
Contacting her, however, is another story. “We’re in a day and age when you can’t call information and find my phone number,” Hammerling says. It’s true, who has a landline anymore? So Mark, with the help of his young children — neither of whom appeared older than 12 — created a Twitter account and thus fired off the Tweet Heard Round the Twittersphere.
There we have our feel-good holiday anecdote, with a nice tech twist alongside it. Shortly thereafter Hammerling tweeted:
Until then, Hammerling’s day had been somewhat sour, so maybe this whole ordeal was a blessing in disguise. “In a city of eight million people, through Twitter in less than one hour, my wallet was found.” Yes, Brooke, that truly is something.
She says she’s thankful for this gentleman named Mark and his children. Given her status as a New York tech maven, she is thankful for Uber given the service’s ability to charge her without the need for her physical bank cards. Without it, “I would have had to beg, borrow, and steal,” she says. (I guess it’s nice that at least one person in this country is thankful for Uber.)
New Yorkers often look down their noses at tourists, who are in constant need of directions, but in this case it was the tourist who came to the aid of the New Yorker.