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Foreign sailor’s lost cash-filled wallet returned thanks to super sleuthing Save-On employee
The cash-filled wallet was discovered by the overnight cleaning crew at the Park and Tilford Save-On-Foods in North Van.
When clerk Maria Wood arrived for her 6 a.m. shift last Wednesday (Dec. 18) it was sitting on the customer service counter with a note explaining it had been found behind the bench at the front of the grocery store.
Determined to locate its owner, Wood examined a photo ID card inside the wallet. It was a young man with short dark hair but that’s all the information she could glean because the writing was foreign, neat lines of intricate-looking characters.
Within walking distance from the North Van industrial waterfront, Save-On at Park and Tilford gets a lot of sailors through its doors who go shopping while they wait for their ships to be loaded with cargo.
Many are from the Philippines and Wood figured that might be the country of origin of the young man in the picture. “My mission was to get it back to him by the end of my day because there was so much money in there. And he was so young, so he was obviously sending the money to his family,” Wood said.
Along with receiving its fair share of mariners, Wood’s store also gets a lot of longshoreman dropping by in the mornings to buy their lunches.
She started asking some of the regulars she knew how she might best return a wallet to a foreign sailor.
That’s when regular store customer Dave Turner overhead the conversation.
The North Van man told her he was retired and willing to help.
“We looked at the money in the wallet and saw pictures of Mao on the bills along with all his ID being in Chinese. That’s when I suggested to [Maria] that he was Chinese and not Filipino,” he explained.
Turner suggested calling Port Metro Vancouver’s harbour master’s office.
Wood then started asking some of the store’s Asian employees if they could decipher the ID but none were able to read Chinese.
Meanwhile, Turner got in touch with Jeff Pelton, operations co-ordinator at Port Metro Vancouver. Turner told him about the lost wallet, noting that they suspected it belonged to a Chinese seafarer.
Pelton, knowing he had some Mandarin-speaking colleagues in the office, asked for a copy of the sailor’s ID. Woods’ co-worker, Stacey Houston, used her smartphone to photograph the card and email it to Turner who forwarded to the Harbour Master’s office.
By now there was a torrent of phone calls and emails pinging back and forth about the lost wallet.
Around the same time, another customer at Save-On entered the story. He was a Chinese gentleman with a translator app on his iPhone that he was able to use to read the characters on the ID to determine the identity of the wallet’s owner.
Back at the Port Metro’s harbour master’s office, Pelton had already contacted several of the agencies that represent foreign ships when they arrive at Vancouver’s port to ask if any Chinese crew members had lost a wallet.
One of the people he contacted was Peter Meidal, a ship agent for Neptune Terminals.
He told Pelton a Chinese crew had just left a berth at Neptune at 10 a.m. that same morning.
Pelton emailed the captain of the ship to see if any crew members had lost a wallet.
Shortly after, the habour master’s office had called back with the name on the ID. Meidal compared it to the crew list and found a match.
Then, the story of the lost wallet took another interesting turn.
After learning the name of the ship, the Maple Apus, Wood told her boyfriend Bruce McKenzie, who also happens to be a longshoreman, about the lost wallet.
Turns out McKenzie had helped load the vessel at Neptune the day before.
He was then able to deliver the wallet to the Neptune office, where Meidal has arranged for it to be delivered to the ship owner’s office in China.
Meidal is relieved to know the young sailor will get his wallet back. “Absolutely. The crew members don’t make a whole lot of money and there was a whole lot there,” he said.
“Everyone was working hard to return his wallet [to him],” he added.
Both Meidal and Pelton praised Woods for her efforts to ensure the sailor got his wallet back.
“It’s in the right hands to get [back to the sailor],” said Wood. “It just took a whole bunch of people and a little persistence.”