Losers’ Las Vegas

A tribute to the casino saints who save us from ourselves

I’m a loser. I lose things. All the time. So far today alone I misplaced one of the dog’s leashes, my wallet and my wedding ring. And it’s only 1 p.m. and I haven’t left the house except, once I found the leash—under laundry waiting to be folded—to take Black and Jack for a walk.

I’m one of “those people.” I don’t know if it’s irresponsibility, easy distraction or early-onset Alzheimer’s. My mother is the same way. I look a lot like her, we both have constantly running noses, we’re both terrible drivers, and neither of us ever remembers what we entered a room for, so the notion that a lot of odd traits may have come in the bundle is quite likely.

When I’m in the house, I don’t even stress about it anymore. Unless I absolutely need the item at that moment—my car keys, typically—I just shrug and give it time, and the missing things eventually surface. Today, for example, the wallet was in yesterday’s jeans, and my ring sat on the ledge behind the toilet. (Sorry, Miles!)

I’m more careful when I’m out. There are traumatic incidents—a hearing aid left atop a pay phone, a thicket of sealed, unmailed holiday cards left under the seat in front of me on an airplane, a car thought to have been parked on the 3rd floor of a Strip garage in 115-degree heat that actually sat on the 8th floor at a different hotel—but for the most part I am trying to be more aware.

Yet because I am such a ditz and because I am out so often, the odds were high that I was going to lose something important sooner or later. I count on that and brace myself, but what I didn’t count on was that there are angels all over Las Vegas waiting to save us losers from ourselves.

It happened twice in recent months. First, I was over at the Palms in October to scout out space for the Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza held there a few days later. I sat down to play at a blackjack machine for a few minutes before heading to my car, and a mile later, I realized my wallet was missing. I backtracked and started looking everywhere I had been at the Palms that day. Most vexingly, I couldn’t recall which machine I’d sat at; in a panic, they all look alike.

A slot-floor lady noticed my distress and asked what was wrong. When I told her, an enormous matronly smile emerged, she took my hand and rubbed my upper back and said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, a nice old woman found it and turned it in to security.”

I was in shock, then felt a wave of relief that prompted me to tear up. There is a calculation your mind makes when something is lost, an effort to accept the loss and decide what to do about it. Having an unexpected recovery is like waking up from a bad dream. It can be quite emotional.

Not emotional enough, though, for me to keep better track of my things. In late January, I was at Boulder Station placing my annual Super Bowl bet. (Lost that, too.) Again, I sat down to play a little, this time live blackjack. Then I went home. The next morning, we realized my cell phone wasn’t around. We tried the usual things—retracing steps, calling it from another line, cursing Steve for being a doofus—to no avail. So I went to AT&T Wireless’ website to see if anyone had used the phone and, lo and behold, a call had been made an hour after I left the casino.

I dialed the number, and Boulder Station security answered. They had used my phone to call themselves to get my phone number, and then they logged the number and the make and model of the phone. When I called in, all I had to do was tell them my number and they had the phone waiting for me when I rushed over 10 minutes later.

Both incidents occurred off the Boulevard, and my heroes seemed to be honest local people who had turned in my belongings. So I wondered: Are people as honest and are things logged as carefully at the big, fancy Strip haunts?

Answer: Holy crap, yes.

Mary McKenzie, the Mirage’s lost-and-found guru, happily showed me what this looks like from the back end. In a large closet in a back-of-house office, the 1,000 or so items turned in each month are logged and sorted by type. There are boxes of credit cards left with barkeeps at Jet, sunglasses and hats left by the pool, cell-phone chargers left in rooms. More expensive things—watches, rings, wads of money—are kept in safes.

McKenzie has one clerk who spends most of her time calling guests or sending them letters to see if they forgot something in their rooms, sometimes reaching back two or three guests ago to find the rightful owners. “We might give them a hint, because some people have no idea,” she says. “We might say, it’s a jewelry item. But they have to describe it to get it back.”

No item is too big, small or weird. A sack of snacks left by the pool or a newly purchased Love T-shirt forgotten next to a slot machine have the same chance of being logged and kept. McKenzie admits they’ve logged their share of dildos and vibrators, too. “Years ago, we got a prosthetic leg,” she recalls. “And you wonder how anyone could forget something like that.”

Claimed items are shipped for free by UPS to the owner, at least at MGM Mirage properties. Items that go unclaimed endure various fates. If it’s something valuable, it is held longer and ultimately is offered to the employee “of record” who turned it in. More mundane items may be given to charity. (Employees pocket valuables at their own risk; if a guest calls chasing after something valuable, McKenzie’s folks investigate who was in the room when the item was reported lost.)

It was all too much to imagine, so I asked my Facebook friends if they’d ever lost and recovered anything at a Vegas resort. Stories poured in confirming McKenzie’s system for other resorts on the Strip, tales of an iPhone left at the Wynn pool, of a leather jacket forgotten at Palazzo’s Grand Luxe Café, a hat believed gone that was under a bed at the Flamingo. All were reunited with forgetful owners.

One thing bothered me. One would think that a department like McKenzie’s would be deluged by a constant shower of thank-you notes and gifts.

“We’ve gotten a basket once,” she says. “Sometimes [the loser] will leave a tip for the finders.”

That’s just rude. We should be pledging everlasting love to these people. My Palms situation was too long ago, but I’m going to take care of that right now with the Boulder Station folks who took care of my phone.

Okay. I’m done. Wrote the letter, printed it out. Now, what did I do with the stamps?


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