Two days ago, my wife and I found a woman’s purse left behind in a Yellow Cab. I wanted to turn it over to the driver, but the wife didn’t think that cab drivers were trustworthy. We decided to take it home, try to locate the owner and mail it to her.

It was a small change purse with lots of cards and penciled notes, but very little in cash––less than $30.00. [The money is still there. I never steal anything less than a million.] There were, however two Barclays Bank Visa cards and another Visa card from an English company called Egg. Unfortunately, while the owner’s name was on the credit cards, nowhere in the purse could we find her address or telephone number. The purse indicated that its owner was English, since all the credit cards and addresses (other than hers) were from the London area. However a New York City Metro Card seemed to indicate that the owner was either a tourist of temporarily living in New York.

This was the start of a senseless, time consuming, highly frustrating Good Samaritan journey. I started with the Metro Card. It had an identification number on the back, as well as a Customer Service phone number. I thought that the number might possibly lead to an address or phone number of the purchaser, since many card buyers use credit cards to make purchases using card renewal machines in subway stations. Bad thinking. After waiting nearly twenty minutes on the phone before reaching an agent, I was informed that the MTA only keeps records of discounted cards purchased by senior citizens. I then phoned the Lost and Found department of the Taxi and Limousine service, hoping that the purse owner had phoned them to report her loss. She hadn’t.

Next try: Barclays Bank in London. [Fortunately, I use a phone service which doesn’t charge extra for England and a few other European countries.] This should have been duck soup. The cards had the cardholder’s name, the card number and a contact phone number for Barclays. Boy was I naive. It took even longer to speak to an Agent than it had with the Metro Card. When I finally found a real live voice, I was told that the lady had already canceled the cards, so I should destroy them. “Fine,” I told the voice at the other end. “Now, can you give me her address or phone number, since I wish to mail her the purse?” Hesitation at the other end. “Sir, we do not give out that information.” I explained that I understood the policy. “In that case, would you please phone her, explain the situation and have her phone me?” I then left my phone number. To no avail. “Sorry, Sir, but we can’t do that.” Ah, the perils of excessive security!

I argued. After all, she was a client or customer of theirs. Losing credit cards, cash and other papers is a deeply troubling experience. [It had once happened to me, and I would have blessed any one who took the time and trouble to return my property] .It was like talking to a wall. I finally elicited a supposedly pertinent reason. The Agent I was talking to was in India. He suggested that I might take the purse to a local Barclays Bank Ah, the perils of outsourcing! By the way, I tried to locate a commercial Barclays Bank in New York with no success. Incidentally a similar phone call to the Egg Visa card people resulted in the same merry-go round.

What next? There were several slips with names and London phone numbers. I tried four of these. Three numbers were no longer in use. The fourth rang and rang and rang. I later found that this was a shop which was closed on Sunday. On Monday, I reached the shop, but the party whose name I had would not be back until the following day. I shall try again. Several of the calling cards in the purse were for shops or services. I have just sent out five E-mails, and I hope that at least one recognizes the name of my purse owner and has her address or phone number in their files. Believe me, I won’t be surprised if they refuse to give me the information FOR SECURITY REASONS.

I wasted well over half a day of frustration trying to be a responsible citizen. I still have the purse, and I’m angry at my wife She should have let me turn it over to our taxi driver. No good deed goes unpunished.

P.S. If JLH, the owner of the lost purse, reads this, please E-mail me at
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