February 26, 2012

How to (not) Find Your Lost/Stolen Wallet in 40 Steps

Alternatively titled: How LAN Colombia came to be on my never fly with them again list, right next to Aerolineas Argentina.


We were just getting out of the cab at our hotel in Barranquilla. After being up since 5:30 AM, teaching a full day, and two flights, I felt more than ready for a solid night of sleep.

Then came that sinking moment when I dug my hand into my purse to come up empty handed, no wallet to be found. I calmly search again, thinking it was just stuck somewhere between my phone, book, snacks, iPod, etc. No, it definitely isn't here I told Kelsi and Cassie as we got out. The cab driver helped us search in case it had just fallen out in the cab, but no such luck.

As the ten of us in town for Carnaval de Barranquilla congregated in the hotel lobby, I shared the news that somewhere between taking out my boarding pass as we boarded our connecting flight in Bogota and arriving at the hotel, I had lost my wallet. I then proceeded to do what anyone who has lost their wallet knows all too well - attempt to find it. Here's how it went down:

  1. Call the HR representative from my school, knowing that she will easily be able to call the bank and get my card put on hold much faster than I will be able to do so in Spanish.
  2. Remember that she isn't actually very helpful with anything HR related, and is actually just the Queen of Delegation.
  3. Call the guy she delegates to.
  4. Get him to answer on the second ring and say he will call the bank immediately.
  5. Have helpful front desk man at the hotel help me call the Bogota airport. Get re-connected three times before a man tells me no one has reported a blue leather wallet missing to them so far.
  6. Look up number for LAN Colombia customer service online and attempt repeatedly to call them. No one ever answers.
  7. Hear back from HR guy who says my debit card is now on hold, which is good, however in the mean time my friends have reminded me that it is impossible to use a Colombian debit card in person or online without knowing the PIN number. Good call, Banco de Occidente.
  8. Decide that since LAN Colombia nor the Barranquilla airport seem to have someone answering the phones at 11:30 PM on a Thursday night, the best thing I can do is go back to the airport to look for it tonight.
  9. Ride 30 minutes one-way back to the Barranquilla airport, thanking Kelsi and our original cab driver from the airport many, many times for coming back with me.
  10. Speak to the only LAN Colombia representative at the Barranquilla airport. She explains that the plane turned right around and went back to Bogota. No, no one can get in touch with the plane. (What???) No, she cannot call anyone in Bogota to check the plane when it lands. No, she doesn't have a phone number for LAN Lost & Found. No, the phone number posted on the LAN website for customer service is not correct (in fact that one is for LAN Chile), the actual phone number is not posted anywhere, but she can give it to me. No, I cannot fly with a copy of my passport, but must get an official report from DAS, the Colombian authorities to return to Cali on Sunday. Thanks for nothing, lady.
  11. Spend all 30 minutes of the return trip to the hotel on hold with LAN customer service - no one ever answers.
  12. Call HR guy back. He completes the official report with DAS online and emails it to me by the time I get back to the hotel.
  13. Have helpful front desk guy print me a copy of my passport and the official report. Thank God that I listened to some travel advice years ago and saved a scanned copy of my passport as a Google Doc so at least I have some form of ID for the weekend. (NOTE - everyone who travels a lot should do this right now)
  14. Go to bed.
  15. Wake up in the middle of the night to check my purse - my wallet still isn't there. That really did happen. 
  16. Wake up the next morning with (foolishly) renewed faith in customer service people. Call the Bogota airport Lost & Found - no one has reported my wallet missing. Call LAN Customer Service - get someone to answer (!) and give me the phone number of the Lost & Found department (!). No one answers the phone at Lost & Found.
  17. Go out to the hotel pool and try to forget about it. Thank God that I emptied my wallet and therefore only lost my Colombian ID (cedula), debit card and the equivalent of about $50 USD.
  18. Borrow money from Kelsi and spend Friday and Saturday rocking Carnaval de Barranquilla anyway.
  19. Return to the airport on Sunday afternoon to fly back to Cali. Note that the LAN representative  from Thursday night AKA most unhelpful woman in Barranquilla is one of people checking in passengers. Initially dislike this until Kelsi reminds me she is the one who told me I could fly with this DAS report, so at least they will have to let me fly.
  20. Check in with the help of a Colombian military man who was needed to "validate" my DAS report AKA give it a glance.
  21. Get escorted through security by said military man.
  22. Sit at the gate for our flight to Bogota for two additional hours waiting for the plane to arrive from Bogota, where all air traffic controllers have gone on strike.
  23. Fly to Bogota. Realize we missed our connecting flight to Cali by three minutes and LAN didn't think to hold the flight for TEN passengers. Don't worry though, they will give us $18,000 pesos ($9 USD) to spend at McDonald's. Gross. No gracias, LAN.
  24. Tempt fate and exit security in search of food and the Lost & Found office near baggage claim. Feel slightly nervous that Bogota will be more strict about letting me fly back without ID and I will be spending the night in Bogota by myself, but decide I am not spending this impromptu five hour layover by myself.
  25. Find Lost & Found office for LAN airlines - music is blaring, lights are on, but no one is there.
  26. Understand a hell of a lot better why no one ever answered their phones.
  27. Find some men at the baggage claim desk. Explain to them what happened. Yell at them in broken Spanish/English/jibberish when they tell me the only woman with the key to the locked security box where all valuable lost items are kept is not at the airport and will not be there until 8:00 AM the next morning. Stomp up the stairs to Crepes & Waffles restaurant in the midst of a very epic "I hate Colombia" moment.
  28. Attempt to explain what just happened to Kelsi, Cassie and Mandi. Get one sentence in before I am crying at a Crepes & Waffles in the Bogota airport. Feel like a giant social pariah and overall, pretty awesome about myself.
  29. Eat a delicious crepe, drink a Chai tea and pray that I will be let back through security.
  30. Stop by McDonald's. Feel immediately nauseated by the smell. Decide LAN Colombia already has my wallet, they might as well keep my $18,000 pity pesos too.
  31. Get let back through security with no problems (!).
  32. Speak with super lovely woman working at the Bogota Beer Company in the airport. Confirm with her that my wallet was not left there on Thursday night, which I didn't think it was, but just covering all the bases. Explain to her what the LAN Colombia people said - she confirms it makes no sense to her either. Wonder aloud why everyone who doesn't need to be helpful in this situation (hotel front desk guys, cab driver, Kelsi, Bogota Beer Company lady, Colombian military men, security people, etc.) has gone out of their way for me, but the people who I actually need to help me (anyone from LAN Colombia) have done nothing.
  33. Return to Cali at 1:00 AM - five hours later than we were supposed to.
  34. Sleep for 4 hours.
  35. Go to school on Monday morning. Wait until 8:30 AM to call Lost & Found in Bogota. A man answers and tells me that the supervisor with the key to the lock box will be in "around mid-day". ON A MONDAY.
  36. Call back at 1:00 PM. Speak with Diana, supervisor of lost items and baggage for LAN Colombia. Describe my wallet. Get cut off mid-sentence when she tells me it isn't there. I ask how she knows that when there is no way she has opened the lock box within the last 5 seconds. She says nothing has been turned into the office in over a week.
  37. Feel incredulous at the idea that I am the only person who has lost anything on a NATIONAL airline in over a week. Know there is no way that is true. Either people know better and aren't even attempting to locate lost thing because they know there is no point, or someone who works for LAN Colombia now has my lovely leather blue wallet and the cedula of a foreigner named Kristin.
  38. Say gracias and just hang up. Realize it took me four days of wasted efforts just to end up without a wallet.
  39. Email HR guy to say thanks for all his help. 
  40. Receive email back from him saying my new debit card will be ready for pick-up on Friday.
Turns out, everything is replaceable. Lose a debit card, get a new one. Lose faith in an airline, get a new one.

Avianca Airlines - you better have it together for spring break 2012 because I am counting on you.



P.S. Who wants to go buy a new Mu wallet with me?

1 comment:

Sergio en Colombia said...

my mother is all set to go mu shopping when she comes mid-april. just sayin'!

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