Why doesn’t this Wells Fargo customer want his missing wallet?

Studio/Shutterstock
Studio/Shutterstock
When Peter Verstage finds a wallet on a London bus, he tries to do the right thing and return it to its owner. Easier said than done.

Question: I found a wallet on the bus in London containing some cash, the business card of a personal banker at Wells Fargo in Denton, Texas, and a Wells Fargo Platinum credit card and debit card.

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Being a good citizen, I emailed the personal banker suggesting that he contact his customer with my details so that I could return his property to him.

I received no reply, so I telephoned Wells Fargo’s customer service number on the debit card and explained the situation to the agent who answered. She said that the bank would not be prepared to contact their customer on my behalf, and the agent and I agreed that my only alternative was to spend the cash and throw away the wallet.

The moral of the story? Always leave your contact details in your wallet — and don’t bank with Wells Fargo. Can you help reunite the wallet with its rightful owner? — Peter Verstage, Isle of Man, U.K.

Answer: You’re right about one thing: Always, always include your contact information in your wallet, either in a business card or on a slip of paper. Also, add it to your luggage, your cell phone, your laptop — anything you might lose.

Beyond that, I certainly hope you are wrong. Wells Fargo has been my bank since the mid-’80s, when they offered a then-impoverished college student a credit card. Wells Fargo has always done right by me — it even handled my mortgage many years ago — so I hoped that this was just a simple misunderstanding between you, the banker in Texas, and Wells Fargo’s cardmember services department.

I started by contacting Wells Fargo on your behalf. I received an almost immediate response from the bank, saying that it had already reached out to the banker in Texas, who had in turn contacted the customer.

“The banker must have neglected responding to Mr. Verstage himself,” she says. “Our apologies. We are also working with our customer service department as the phone conversation Mr. Verstage had with one of our team members does not reflect how we would want this type of situation handled.”

Case solved? Not quite.

Almost two weeks later, you contacted me again. No one from Wells Fargo had been in touch with you. You still had the wallet. At this point, a member of my resolutions team tried to track down the customer, using the information you had provided. (They found him, but he didn’t respond to us.)

On a personal note, what makes this case so jarring for me is that my credit and debit cards looks exactly like the picture of the one you sent to me from the wallet. That could have been me.

Now, to be sure, those cards have been canceled. But there’s still cash in the wallet and other personal effects, and I’m sure the customer would like to have them back.

“That’s really strange,” I said to my Wells Fargo contact in an email. “Is it possible that this customer doesn’t want his wallet back?”

“I think it is,” she replied. “I can guarantee we provided our customer with all of Mr. Verstage’s contact information, that he had the wallet and had reached out to us because he wanted to return it. Beyond that, there isn’t much more we can do. And I also agree that this is a strange situation.”

You know, this is such a bizarre case, I’m not sure what to do. I find it highly improbable that anyone would just abandon a wallet in London. It’s far more likely that somewhere along the line — maybe between you, the bank, the banker and the customer — there was a little breakdown in communication.

It would have been nice for Wells Fargo to have gone beyond simply contacting the customer, and to make it their personal mission to reunite the wallet with its rightful owner. But it is under no obligation to do so.

Who is responsible for returning this wallet?

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59 thoughts on “Why doesn’t this Wells Fargo customer want his missing wallet?

  1. when i lost my phone for less then 24 hours i canceled it and got a new one.

    turns out i left it in a security check point and the nice TSA agent tried to call my mom and my sister to see if he could return it. But i was only notified WAAY after i already had a new phone.

    my point- it is nice to do the right thing but it’s not always necessary. the OP could have saved allot of time and hassle by just tossing the wallet.

    1. Except the wallet contained an undetermined amount of cash and personal effects. So we’re talking more than simple plastic.

  2. I don’t see how this is Wells Fargo’s responsibility at all. If he had my business card, I certainly wouldn’t make it my “personal mission” to get the guy his wallet back. Sure it would be nice, I might email the guy, but that’s about it. It’s very possible the amount of cash isn’t worth the guy paying to ship his wallet from the UK. The OP should assume the cash is his after so much effort.

    1. If a client of mine had my card in his wallet, and someone called me and said they found his wallet, I would make it my personal mission to help my client get his wallet back. Its all about customer service.

    2. I don’t have a personal banker. Do YOU have a personal banker? My point is that if you’re a good enough client to have a ‘personal banker’ AND you carry his card around in your wallet, you’re likely to be a pretty important customer. Or let’s say an extremely important customer.

      If I were a personal banker (which is unlikely since I have no idea what they even do,) I would do everything possible to get my client’s personal effects back to him/her.

  3. I think Verstage went over and above by contacting Wells Fargo, but Wells Fargo’s agent could have done a better job of responding to him. And when it promised you, Chris, that it would be in touch with him and then didn’t follow through, that’s bad customer service.

    1. Yeah, when you’re trying to be on your very best behavior and you STILL drop the ball it speaks very poorly of your organization.

      And the excuse that the personal banker had contacted the customer but forgotten to get back to the Good Samaritan is pretty mind boggling. It’s very easy to imagine an outcome where the customer is overjoyed their wallet is found only to discover that by the time word made it back to the Good Samaritan they’d disposed of it since they’d never heard back from Wells Fargo.

  4. I am impressed with what the OP has tried to do. I wouldn’t judge Wells Fargo based on one employee and it seems that after contact by Chris, they tried to assist as best they could. What I suggest doing, if the OP is uncomfortable with keeping the money, is donating it to charity.

  5. I think our problem here is that we are not “naughty” people. This situation reminds me of hotel policies when they find left over items in a hotel room. They never call the guest because he may have been there for a naughty reason. Calling the guest may cause some difficulties if the spouse picks up the phone.

    Similarly, this person who lost the wallet may have been somewhere he was not supposed to be and Wells Fargo wanted to avoid embarrassing the customer.

    1. This actually sounds like the most reasonable answer. If the owner does not get in touch about the wallet there has to be a reason. I doubt that Wells Fargo fell down on the job to this degree. And the fact that Chris’ team tracked down the owner of the lost wallet who did not respond tells us there was probably no misconnect between WF and its customer. And it appears the customer has a reason that we will never know for avoiding contact about his lost wallet.

      1. 1) Person feels the communication is a “scam”. Believes wallet is lost, someone picked it up, and might be trying to steal identity. Older people are overly trustful about leaving money around, but very leery about “who” has access to their money.

        2) Contents aren’t worth the hassle. Wallet has cancelled credit cards, 50 or 100 bucks, and odds and ends. Time you ship back, isn’t worth it. Guy cares less and moved on.

        3) Gentleman was up to “no good” and doesn’t want folks to find out where he’s been.

        1. I’m betting #3. Without a shred of proof, I’m going to say that he’s married and met someone illicitly. Besides, what man living in the US doesn’t have his driver’s license in his wallet. Sounds very fishy.

          1. My husband did not take his driver’s license with him when we went to London, as he had his passport as identification.

            I’m betting #1. I can’t tell you how many “package delivery” calls I’ve hung up on in the last 6 months.

          2. My father’s former boss went to a massage parlor and spent $300 (at the time, it was a lot of money) on a massage (which had to be more than a massage). His wife opened up the credit card bill.

            Europeans are more discreet and inventive. My friend from Poland took his off his taxes as a “business expense.”

          3. I kept my drivers license separate from wallet when traveling overseas. I had a passport and a money placed in my money belt. Wallet had 20 or 30 euros, but no credit cards or ID. I wanted to minimize the number of times I had to access the belt and make myself a target.

            Therefore, the wallet had around 20 or 30 euros, but nothing else inside. So gentleman might work under the same theory. Instead, he kept some business cards, odds and ends, etc inside too.

  6. Couldn’t the OP send the Wallet to Wells Fargo and have them mail the contents to the OP? I surmise Wells Fargo has the gentleman’s address on file.

    By reach out, are we referring to a letter in the mail or phone call? Maybe the OP is suspicious the communication is a scam?

    Long story short, if the gentleman refuses to reply at some point, there’s not much to do here. Good deed can only go so far if no one’s going to help finalize the act.

  7. Maybe the wallet had been stolen and the owner did not want to see it again and remember the incident. My bag was returned to me after a robbery but it was obvious that everything had been gone through even though it was all there – lipstick sampled, brush used, wallet gone through – that I did not want to keep any of it and tossed the whole thing in the trash. I did remove any identifying information because I did not want it to come back to me again. I did appreciate the return (was by security guards who really should have stopped the robbery, it was all on camera, rather than just retrieve the bag days later) but just did not even want to touch it. And there was nothing irreplaceable in it.

    1. Then you call Wells Fargo back and tell them you don’t need it back. It’s terribly poor manners to ignore communications, particularly since I’m sure the person would expect to hear back from the bank promptly if they’d contacted them. Maybe they’re freaked out it could be some sort of scam, but even then it boggles my mind they wouldn’t call back.

  8. The OP should have turned the wallet into the police. Why is he still holding onto it? Why was his only alternative to take money that is not his? I am sorry but I am missing the part where the OP is doing the right thing and being a good citizen.

    1. That’s nuts.

      The OP is trying to return the money when he could have easily taken the money, tossed it an be done with it.

      But to your specific question, the OP is in London (I assume), the owner may livesin Texas. If he turns it into the police there is ZERO chance of the owner getting it back.

      1. LOL. I must be missing something. What is nuts about turning the item into the police? I don’t know what type of police you deal with but I would trust them.

        1. I trust the police, too, but doubt they would open up an investigation. At best they would tag it and throw it into lost and found. If someone claimed it, fine.

          1. Bigger picture in this case if it sounds doubtful the owner would call the police back, either. A person whose business card they had has tried contacting them and gotten absolutely no response. Some unknown policeman probably won’t do any better.

        2. Lol. Nothing to do with the police and their honesty. It’s the reality that turning in a wallet without ID to the police, means that the wallet will never be found. The UK police are not going to open an investigation into a wallet without ID and only a Texas business card.

    2. Yes, you are missing something. The person has patiently held onto the wallet for a long period of time and ignored Wells Fargo’s advice to just keep the money and throw the wallet away. And you’re taking him to task for not doing still more? Wow.

      And since the person won’t call back their bank, why do you suppose he’d call back a supposed call from the police assuming the cops even had the time to make such a call? If they won’t call back somebody they’ve actually met at the bank, then an anonymous policeman on the phone won’t sound any more legitimate to them.

        1. That’s not the point. Many of us are saying that your comment

          I am sorry but I am missing the part where the OP is doing the right thing and being a good citizen.

          makes no sense under these circumstances. The OP is going out of his way to do the right thing and be a good citizen. Your proposed solution of turning it in the the police would be far easier on the OP and all but guarantee the owner never gets his wallet back.

          The OP’s course of action costs him his time, provides no benefit to him, and might benefit a complete stranger.

          I submit to you that is the very definition of a good citizen

  9. Okay, so suppose you lost a wallet on a trip. First off, recognize that you must clearly be a savvy traveler who is not carrying a wallet full of cards and other stuff, just a credit and debit card and a bit of cash. How are you likely to have lost that wallet? Did you just leave it on a bus? Did it just fall out of your pocket? You’ve never lost a wallet before like that and the odds that the first time you do so is on a trip are pretty slim. You’re most likely thinking it was stolen. So, you write off the loss and notify the credit card company.

    Later, someone is trying to reach you to say that “found” your wallet. Maybe it is an honest, upright citizen like Mr. Verstage. Maybe not. Do you really want to take the chance of contacting them for “some cash”? There is no combination of “return his property to him” that does not involve someone you don’t know getting your address. Wells Fargo would be stupid to hand it out to anyone and, even if they passed the information on to you, do you want to send it to them so they can get your cash back to you? Do you even want them to get your email address or phone number, not knowing if they might actually be the thief?

    1. “There is no combination of “return his property to him” that does not involve someone you don’t know getting your address.”
      ____________

      The only people to have contacted the person has been Wells Fargo and they already have his address and all his contact info. I’m sure the OP would have been very happy to mail the wallet to Wells Fargo and let them send it back to the customer. In that situation, nobody gets an address that didn’t already have it. But that only works if the owner actually calls Wells Fargo back…which never happened.

      If it’s a total stranger, I agree with you that many people would ignore the communication. But when your bank contacts you multiple times and you don’t get back to them in any way it’s quite odd.

      1. I don’t see anywhere that it says the the bank tried to contact him and he didn’t get back to them. There is a comment that Elliott’s resolutions team did track him down and he didn’t respond, but the bank only said that they had provided the customer the information.

        I doubt the Wells Fargo really wants be serve as a forwarding service for lost items. I don’t see that they offered to do so.

        1. “but the bank only said that they had provided the customer the information.”

          And that differs from the bank trying to contact him and him not getting back to them how? The customer hasn’t gotten back to ANYBODY. If they have some doubts about the OP, the logical move would be calling the personal banker back for some more details.

  10. Wow, Wells Fargo told him to spend the money and throw out the wallet? Sadly, I wouldn’t put it past them. When my father had a stroke and was medically incapacitated, Wells Fargo refused to honor my power of attorney. They said their policy is to never honor any POAs in order to protect their customers. My dad’s Wells Fargo credit card and car loan were not getting paid and were racking up late fees, and someone along the way stole my dads debit card and kept over drawing his checking account (We believe it was stolen at the first hospital). Wells fargo would not let me pay either of his bills, see his bill, or cancel his debit card. I finally had to hire an attorney who upon the threat of a law suit, finally got Wells Fargo to accept the power of attorney. It took another attorney action to get them to waive the $500 in late fees and over draw fees that would not have occurred has they honored the POA to begin with. I will never use them after this experience.

    On a side note I found a wallet at a ski area once. I opened it to look for contact info and found it, I also noticed that there was no money, just credits cards, receipts, pictures, etc. I called the guy and arranged to meet him and return in. When I returned it to him he asked where his money was and I told him there was no money it it when I found it. He didn’t believe me and started accusing me of stealing his money and saying he was going to call the cops and press charges. I said, “Don’t you think if I was going to steal your money, I wouldn’t have cared to return the wallet?” He just kept yelling at me and I said I am leaving and walked away, he said he has my number and I will be hearing from the cops. I never heard from the cops or the guy. My theory is that someone found his wallet first, took the money, and then tossed it back on the ground. It really made me no longer want to return a found wallet.

    1. A guy returned a wallet I had lost a year later. It was effectively useless to me (including no money) and I thanked him, but feel bad I didn’t give him a reward for the effort. I was a poor, broke student back then.

      When stuff like this happens, you don’t react ideally. Ideally, you should have called his bluff and asked him to call the cops right there. Let the cops arrive and ask whether they should press charges for a guy returning a wallet with no money in it.

      Regional laws vary, but a lost wallet may be considered finders-keepers including the contents except for abuse of ID which is ID theft.

      1. I wanted to gt back to skiing rather than waiting around for the cops to show up, which is why I left. The way he acted, I sort of wish I had taken his money.

    2. My dad was mugged and had his wallet taken, this was in the 80s so he had tons of business cards in the wallet. A couple weeks later a school teacher called, some of her students found his wallet on the way to school and brought it to her. The money was gone of course and he had cancelled his credit cards, but all the busness cards were left. He was so thrilled he sent some cookies or cake or something to the class as a big thank you!

  11. I would probably have sent the wallet to the Wells Fargo person whose card was in the wallet. I can understand why the person who lost the wallet wouldn’t want to automatically give out his address to the person who retrieved the wallet. If it was stolen, I wouldn’t want to give my contact info to the thief. Thus, if I send it to Wells Fargo, they presumably have the persons address and can send it directly to him. I found a wallet in a bathroom years ago and, thankfully, the drivers license was in the wallet so I sent it directly to the person and got a very nice note back thanking me for sending it.

  12. Man oh man, do things like this get under my skin sometimes. You try and do the right thing and then get nowhere unless you are able to get in touch with the actual owner.

    I once found an AT&T cell phone in a mall. The battery was dead so I couldn’t turn it on to try and figure out who it belonged to. So I took it to an AT&T cell phone store and the employees in there gave me a blank look, saying, “Well, unless the customer comes in looking for their missing phone, we can’t figure out who it belongs to, because it has no power”. I said “why not plug the phone in, charge it for a while, then call another cell phone with it and see what number shows up on the caller ID”. All I got was another blank look. Frustrated, I left the store. I did my part, but apparently AT&T couldn’t or wasn’t willing to do theirs. And apparently these retail stores can’t contact the corporate office for any assistance with something like this, because, I was told “they are a separate business unit of AT&T”, even though it is all the same company.

      1. The phone may have used a non-standard charger too, but you’d think AT&T would have access to one. They just don’t want to make any extra effort, much like Wells Fargo.

        1. Airport lost and found collects on average at least an IPAD a day along with several other expensive phones. These phones are all “marked” by their service making returning the property trivial. In addition, a stolen phone should also be easily traced back to the owner unless there is a good technician able to rebrand them at the lowest level (they all have unique S/N’s registered with the service.)

          This should not be a 21st century problem. I suspect the f’ing oligarchs at these corporations DON’T want the devices returned to the owners. They want to sell them another one.

  13. My friend is rather paranoid and prides himself on scrubbing his identity information off of the internet so I like to play a game to find his address and send him the URL. It’s always fun when he scrambles to start getting it off again.

    Finding a wallet in London and tracing it back to the owner is a challenge. No specific state. But in my own wallet are tons of things to trace back to me such as regional frequent shopper cards. I also have a somewhat unique name which helps.

    I would have considered it a fun personal challenge to track down the guy and give him a call.

    There’s a plotline on Madmen where Don Draper finds a guy’s wallet and returns it to him, but then, being Don Draper, starts cheating with the guy’s wife.

    1. My frequent shopper card says if found to mail it to them postage due, and they will return it to the owner. The key card says the same thing. My mom lost her keys once and got them back in the mail from Kroger because she had the key-ring frequent shopping card.

  14. Must not be enough cash to matter to the person who lost it. But if that is the situation, that message should have been passed back so the finder knows what to do.

    When I travel out of the country, I seldom carry my driver license or even my regular wallet. I have a travel wallet containing a single credit and/or debit card and a few dollars worth of the local currency. Everything of importance is in a money belt I wear under my clothes separate from the wallet. If I would lose the wallet, either through my own clumsiness or through theft, I wouldn’t worry about it at all.. Would I respond to a claim that a good samaritan found it and wanted to return it? Maybe. But returning the wallet from a foreign country would probably cost more than what cash I had in it.

    I experienced a recent event making me worry that I was being scammed. Someone at the London England office of the company I work for called me and left a voice message that they had found my suitcase in their lobby containing a plane ticket with my name on it, a laptop and change of clothing they wanted to return to me. This was strange because I had not been to that office in a couple years and I knew for certain it was not my laptop because I was using it at that moment. If it had not been an employee calling me, I never would have called back. Don’t know the end result of the situation because our security department told me it would be taken care of and not to ask about it again. And I closely watched for any fraud on my banking accounts and checked the credit reports to make sure no one was attempting to steal my identity. I still wonder who owned the stuff they actually found.

  15. If this was an Amex card I’m sure the wallet and contents would have easily been reunited…The best CS ever….Seriously the best customer service hands down…

    1. Ditto for AmEx. Here’s my wallet story. About ten years ago I was vacationing in Frankfurt. I’d met a friend from my company’s Frankfurt office for dinner on a Friday night. The next morning, my wallet wasn’t in my purse. Being a weekend now, my friend lent me enough Euros to get me by until Monday when I could get to the AmEx office and get a cash advance. I also had all my cards cancelled. I got my cash advance and traveled on to Munich. A few days later, I got on my email and discovered that my wallet had been found in front of my Frankfurt hotel. Chain of events: Frankfurt resident, who is also an American citizen, finds my wallet. He finds my AmEx card, and contacts them to see if they can locate me. Amex calls my work phone on Monday. I’m not at work of course, but I’d left an emergency contact person’s number so they called her. Coworker knows I’m in Germany and knows the Frankfurt employee I had dinner with. She contacts him, he contacts me, and I contact AmEx. After AmEx had the name of someone authorized to receive my wallet, they got the two of them in contact and the finder returned my wallet to my Frankfurt friend. I returned to Frankfurt the next weekend to fly back to the States, and got my wallet back with all of the contents including the money. Funny thing is, I got the name of the person who returned the wallet, sent him a nice letter saying I’d like to meet up to thank him the next time I was in town… he never contacted me. I’m still eternally grateful.

  16. Could be the wallet owner doesn’t give a hoot. He lost the wallet, probably cancelled his cards immediately, the amount of cash was small — and he now doesn’t care to be bothered. The finder did everything right. Now he should start enjoying his vacation and forget this.

    1. I haven’t read where anyone knows why Wells did what they did, they are trained to do this. Or why Wells would reply that it was handled the wrong way….

      Imagine the guy that found the wallet has ultimate bad intentions (there are more like this than you think).

      Then Wells becomes an intermediary for the 2 to meet and something happens to their client?

      Or was a stalker and stole the wallet, too many things to risk just for replaceable things.

      1. I don’t know but my instinct says the person Chris was talking to has a long history with Chris and may not have known all this would be in ‘print’ so spoke too freely. I had to do business with Wells and I can only say a company with a stage coach for a logo is a dead give away about how they do business…..I should have known better.

  17. Think of this possibility: You lose your wallet, with your credit cards inside. But soon you get a phone call – a “nice person” has found your wallet, and you can meet him tomorrow at the Starbuck’s on 1st Avenue to get it back. He doesn’t even want a reward, he’s happy to do the right thing, but maybe you’ll buy him a cup of coffee. You heave a sigh of relief and DON’T begin the arduous process of reporting all your cards lost or stolen. You all can probably guess where it goes from there.

  18. I didn’t get through all the comments yet so forgive me if someone else posted this but my first thought, after yuck wells fargo, was the owner of the wallet was not ahem, supposed to be where they lost the wallet, ahem, cough, wink, nudge. Now time to donate the cash to a food bank in the lost wallet holder’s name.

  19. We used to drop it in the Mail Box and the Postal Services do the work. They know how to return and have the authority to do it well. It happened to me once and I received my wallet from Post Canada, nothing missing. It the same treatment for the Keys.

  20. My goodness so many cynical people! My first thought was ‘Hmm maybe he’s afraid the guy wants a reward or or maybe he thinks it’s a scam” … My mind didn’t immediately go to the “He traveled all the way from the US to the UK to hook up with someone”!!

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