Trying To Be A Boy Scout

Leaving an office building restroom the other day, I saw something gold on the floor.  That’s weird, I said to myself.  How did my American Express card end up there?

Except it wasn’t my card.  It had someone else’s name.  And it was a business credit card, with the company’s name listed too.

The card I found looked like this, except it did not belong to C. F. Frost.

The normal procedure — normal, that is, if you’re not a crook — is to hunt down the cardholder, ask a few questions to make sure it’s theirs, and return it.  But the name on this card was absurdly generic — let’s say, “Susan Smith.”

After thinking to myself “Wow, I knew a ‘Susan Smith’ in high school,” I figured I’d contact the company.  I’d never heard of it, but it had “Entertainment” in the name, so I assumed it was a small local business.

It’s not.  It’s a large firm, based in California.  The website had no directory of executives, and an extensive search of the site didn’t help.

On to Facebook.  Of course, there are a squintillion Susan Smiths — black, white, young, old, gorgeous, not — but none from around here or with an entertainment profile.

Next up:  Google.  “Susan Smith” plus the company name brought no exact matches.  But the top link was to a Susan Smith’s LinkedIn profile.  She worked in the entertainment field, for a media firm.

I’m on LinkedIn — though I haven’t figured out why — so I sent Susan Smith a message.  “Did you lose your Amex card today?” I asked.  “If so, tell me where, what color, and what the business name is.”

But that was a long shot.  If I were Susan Smith I’d probably be freaking about my lost card.  So I called American Express, to say I’d found it, and all was well.

Easier said than done.  The recorded AmEx voice asked me to say “my” card number.  “Mine” was Susan’s — no problem.

But then I had to answer the security question:  something about my her elementary school.  I was stumped, but I got a 2nd chance:  the last 4 digits of my her Social Security number.

After passive-aggressively informing me that she could not hear my response, the voice gave me a set of options.  None, of course, resembled “speak to a customer service representative.”

So I did what I always do in such circumstances:  I yelled into the phone, “I just want to talk to a f—ing person!”

“Sorry!” she chirped.  “I did not understand that request.”

The customer service representative I spoke with was quite perky, and helpful.

Punching in several not-what-I-wanted prompts — “Membership Rewards” was one, I think — finally got me to “talk with a customer service representative.”

Sort of.  I waited on hold for a while — surprise! — until finally a helpful woman without an Indian accident — another surprise! — greeted me warmly.

I’ve long ago learned that it’s not her fault her company’s phone tree sucks.  So I explained what happened.  She told me to destroy the card, and thanked me for my help.  That was that!

But I had to convey my frustration, so I told her my story.

She apologized on behalf of American Express’s tens of thousands of employees, and said:  “Just so you know, sir, in the future you can punch ‘zero-pound-zero-pound’ any time.  That will take you straight to customer service!”

How simple!  Silly me!  Why hadn’t I thought of that?

PS:  The next morning, “Susan” emailed me back.  She’d gotten my LinkedIn message.  She was the one whose card was lost.  She thanked me profusely.

And she added that yes indeed, she was the Susan Smith who had been in my class back in the day at Staples.

17 responses to “Trying To Be A Boy Scout

  1. Dan, you’re far, far nicer than certain local restauranteurs who know your name and take your money nightly but can’t be bothered to call you and tell you that that they have your AmEx Card. They just destroy it and make you deal with replacing it. But AmEx will overnight or even same day courier a new card for a good customer. You get what what you pay for with AmEx.

    I’m amazed that you remember Charles Frost. He was an Ogilvy & Mather suit guy on the Amex account when they needed a legal name to use on sample, representative cards and the name became the property of AmEx. I don’t think Charlie is still living (apologies if you are Charlie).

    Somewhere the FCC and FTC actually grew some and made advertising reasonably honest. No more doctors endorsing cigarettes as health sticks, no more American Tourister luggage being dropped from the Empire State Building and remaining closed shut and intact, and real persons’ names had to be used on products so that every Jack Jones couldn’t sue for stealing his identity. A few years ago a retired Doyle Dane account guy died and his NYT obit mentioned that his was the name on the jar of Spicy Meatball Sauce. A reference that millions of people instantly understood even though that commercial “Momma Mia That’s A Spicy Meatball” had been produced and run in 1970, nearly 40 years ago.

    A batch of DDB folks lived and live in and about Our Town and they are not Mad Men, They are the guys from the Jew/Italian agency that Don Draper calls out in the first episode for their VW Bug, full page NYT ad..with a small photo and ONE word: Lemon.

    Anyone remember the late, great Evan Baker? Think Brooks Bros. and Higgins Real Estate. But also know that he was first and foremost a Sr. VP at DDB when I was an $85 a week gofer in 1969-70. We met at the the bar of The Tavern while I divorcing in 1997 and once discovering the DDB connection became best friends. Before the evil drink cost him the presidency of Jantzen (sexy bathing suits) and Rawlings ( he signed and nurtured Willie Mays endorsement career) Evan was an ad man superstar. 3 Martooni lunches and dinners cost him a few marriages and more, but whenever we talked about the antics of DDB Evan was another guy.

    So Dan, thanks for giving me something fun to think and talk about early this morning from my bed at Smilow at Yale-New Haven. Hopefully I’ll be back on Main Street soon and seeing you.

    Be well.


  2. Westport Expat

    Your honesty is commendable, Dan – and it’s a small world! No boy scout types ever seem to find the stuff I’ve lost. This page – – is pretty useful for dealing with voice mail systems should the need arise in the future.

    • This is GREAT information…it is clear companies do NOT want us to speak to real people and to give up in frustration. Thanks for help breaking the code!! Who ever thought we’d need help in order to “get human”…

  3. Karma is smiling down on you, Dan, for all the effort it took to do your good deed.

  4. Matters have gotten more complex and less satisfactory. More than ten years ago, I guess, I found a woman’s wallet with an American Express card in it. I called AmEx, got a person right away, they called the woman immediately, and I heard from her within three minutes. I got the wallet back to her in less than 30 minutes. With all this “security” and automated answering systems in place today, I probably would have just given up.

  5. Conspicious Constipation

    A Master George Washington (no fib) at Stop & Shop found my lady’s wallet (of which she had left in the shopping cart ((another story on my reaction)) which was full of money & credit cards. The fine young employee turned it in without ordeal and all was good. It is nice to hear of such fine upstanding young men, such as yourself, being that considerate. Many “finders” run to the nearest gas station and run the credit card to see if it has been cancelled. If not, they go on a shopping spree.

  6. The Dude Abides

    I believe you can just drop the credit card in a mail box and the Post Office will return it to the proper source. But nice going Professor Woog. You have gotten your merit badge for credit card redemption.

  7. To “Justfine” ( Jim): How many of us still remember Charles Frost, the account guy at O & M? Your recall of why his name was used on the card is spot on. Where you at the same shop? Remember Roger Butler, who was a writer on Merrill Lynch and KLM during that same period? I worked at Daniel & Charles at that time ( and a few others) and would meet Roger for lunch. And my AmEx gold card contains the date 59 (1959). I’ve had it for 52 years. And I’ve always found its customer service people fast and responsive. Thanks, Dan, for another interesting, informative and fun blog.

  8. Yes, Dan. A wonderful man and a dear friend. Sadly, he and his wife, Holly, both died from ALS – – a medical rarity.

  9. An interesting story here: In 1974, a childhood friend of mine found a wallet underneath a bench at some tennis court in Weston. It belongs to a major movie star who shall remain nameless (Hint: he was in this movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. No, it’s not the salad dressing guy). Anyway, the wallet contains over $3,000. A young kid tracked the rightful owner down.

    Did he get a reward? Yes, a measly $1.

  10. Why do people expect a reward for doing the right thing?

  11. If a kid returned my $3,000, you can be assured that my reward would have been higher and I would have called the newspapers to let them know that honesty and integrity thrive. That, my dear Wondering, is doing the right thing.

  12. My stepson left his Blackberry on a bus in NYC. The person who found it took many steps to track down its rightful owner. When he arrived at her home to pick it up, she wouldn’t hand it over until he gave her money. I’m not sure how it ended up; he is too embarrassed to say.

  13. Re the Charles Frost references above: A regular reader (who prefers to remain anonymous) emailed me:

    “I have the pleasure of knowing Charlie Frost (the C F Frost on the Am Ex card ads) and sent him the link to your story and the comments. He confirms that he is indeed alive and well (but, he says, the only account he worked on while at O&M was Mercedes Benz). ”

    Once again, our readers prove “06880’s” tagline to be true: “Where Westport meets the world.”

  14. Linda Gramatky Smith

    One day back around 1975 a friend and I were crossing a snow-covered Manhattan street and a glimmer caught my eye. It was a class ring. I picked it up as my acquaintance urged me to just throw it back in the snow. I looked inside and found three initials and then saw that it was a ring from Fordham University. The next day I called the school (no computers back then) and the woman said that she could tell from the initials and the class who the owner was and she would try to notify him. A few days later I got a call from a NYPD detective saying that it was his ring and he and a friend would love to drive out to Glen Rock, NJ (where we lived at the time) to pick it up. They did and I turned it over (no reward asked or expected) and he said that if we ever wanted to come into the City for a “drive around” to see what he did, he’d be glad to arrange it. Guess I lost his number … or with kids ages 8 and 6 I guess I was pretty busy … but I never followed through. I remember the guy fondly though.

    Dan, kudos for going to so much trouble to find the owner!