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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lost 'n' founds of the rich 'n' famous

Your name is Tim McCauley. You are the owner of The Breezewood Motel in Breezewood, Pennsylvania. Describe your lost and found and what’s in it.

“Well, we don’t really have a lost and found. I just keep the stuff we find here behind the counter. There’s a couple pillows, some scarfs, some gloves and a New York Yankee ball cap.”

His name is Arthur Birmelin. He is the director of security at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. The lost and found at the fabled resort is the size of a two-car garage and contains contents similar in substance to what’s secured at Fort Knox.

“There are expensive bracelets, Rolex watches and diamond earrings worth more than $10,000,” says Birmelin.

Mere baubles compared to some of the items distracted well-to-do guests have left behind at one of America’s premier resorts.

“We had one guest forget a satchel with more than $200,000 in jewelry,” he says. “Housekeeping found it. The watch alone was worth $100,000.”

More than that. The watch had a priceless Cash value. It was a gift inscribed by  Johnny Cash, he said.

“She asked we mail it back to her in Nashville,” Birmelin says. “We told her insurance considerations prevented us from doing that so she hired an armored car to pick it up and drive it back to Tennessee.”

The richest people in America are just like the rest of us. They forget stuff, too. It’s just what they forget that fascinates.

Diana Bulger is the spokesperson for the posh Fairmont Hotel & Resorts property. She canvassed her associates and found a laundry list of sundry items in the lost and founds of the rich and famous.

“A diamond encrusted Cartier watch, an entire set of golf clubs, a pair of Rolex watches, a brand new Louis Vuitton wallet, divorce papers, bags of marijuana, a professional flute -- and somebody at the Fairmont Banff Springs forgot a car they’d left with the valet,” she said.

“Oh, and they all report finding lots and lots of cash.”

Birmelin’s team’s dealt with their share of that, too. And he’s talking about the currency, not the Man in Black.

“One guest checked out and left $5,000 in cash in one hundred dollar bills in the safe,” he says. The guest ignored daily phone calls informing him something of value was left behind.

“After about 10 days, he finally called back and said the only thing of value he could have possibly left behind was cash,” he says. “He said he always took a lot of cash to gamble and it was always in hundreds. But he couldn’t say how much.”

Unable to land a guess even in the ballpark, the guest amicably agreed to donate the loot to a worthy charity, a welcome destination for most of the unclaimed items.

The Breakers and The Breezewood may seem to have little in common. Rooms at The Breakers range from $400 to $2,400 per night; at The Breezewood (no website) $32 to $37.80.

But they share an admirable quality that goes unmentioned in the guidebooks: ethical staff.

McCauley recently found a wallet with $4,000 in it.

“When he came to get the wallet, he couldn’t believe none of it was missing,” McCauley says. “I told him we’d be nothing without our honesty.”

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