As some of you may have noticed either here, on Twitter or Facebook, I was in a panic on October 25th when I lost my iPhone 4s on my trip to PhotoPlus Expo’s after party at Madame Tussauds in New York. Just before the above shot was taken of me with George Clooney I had done something incredibly stupid and put my phone on top of a friends jacket so I could get my picture taken. You can barely see it here in one of my friends photos:
Everyone’s best guess is that that when the jacket was picked up my phone fell into the planter unbeknownst to all of us. About 5 minutes later I realized my phone was missing, but I had no idea where it had gone. I thought maybe I had left it with George, but these photo prove that wasn’t the case. Sadly, despite an impressive effort by the security team at Madame Tussauds to ask everyone if they had seen my phone and putting all guards on alert, my phone never turned up.
Yes, I tried calling and texting the phone but it only answered one time and there was no response. Yes, I used Find My iPhone on a friends phone and saw that the phone so I sent it a message asking someone to turn it into security. I was still in the building – for a while – but we didn’t know where in the building (it’s not that granular). Eventually we saw the phone leave the building so I sent it a message via Find My iPhone again letting the person with my phone know that we see it is leaving the building and asked them once again if they could return it – sadly the phone went dead a few blocks later either due to a battery that was about to die anyway or it was forcibly turned off.
I was sick to my stomach, and with tons of meetings for the next few days I was lost without my iPhone! Sadly it never turned up so before I left New York I issued the dreaded wipe command and wrote my iPhone off for good. I hopped on a plane in bad weather and flew back to Seattle (20 minutes later JFK would close for Superstorm Sandy that would hit the city shortly thereafter).
To Make Matters Worse
As if I wasn’t sick enough about losing my phone, I get this lovely email from a reader who took great joy in the loss of my phone:
I was stunned by this email from Robert because I had taken the time in the past to send 7 emails to for his offline request for assistance. I couldn’t help but ask why he was so angry with me and taking such pleasure in my loss! It turned out he was this mad because because I neglected to answer two emails he sent me during a family crisis where I was grief stricken (nobody got email responses from me during those days). It seems that trying to be helpful, but not offering an immediate response makes me a pompous a—hole – hum.
At any rate, his email made a bad situation even worse. Thanks Robert – I really needed that salt in the wound!
14 days later, I get a call…
Stay at the New Yorker Hotel - Honest people work there!
While sleeping one morning I get a call from a security guard at the New Yorker Hotel who asks me if I lost something. I’m half asleep and wondering WTF this guy is talking about – I’ve never been to the New Yorker Hotel!!! Long story short, he had been given my phone that day by a guest who was checking out of the hotel who told him that my phone had been found at Madame Tussauds. The guard asked, why didn’t it get returned to Madame Tussauds and the guest left without a word. He put the phone on a charger, turned it on and saw my lock screen that I had created with an app that no longer exists called If Found + by Polka Software. It had my email and phone number, and they had used that to contact me and my story about where I lost it and the description of the phone checked out so they said they’d return my phone.
HOLY COW!!!! 14 days after losing my phone in the biggest city in the United States it gets found 8 blocks away to a place I’ve never been to – after one of the biggest storms to ever hit the city!!! You’ve gotta be kidding me!
A few days later Gabriel Zamora of the New Yorker Hotel returned my phone to me via FedEx and I now have it back. All of the data was in tact and images I thought I had lost were recovered! I wish I knew the names of the other two security guards at the hotel who helped me as well, but sadly I don’t remember their names.
Wait, I thought you said you wiped the phone???
Yes, I did! However, when you deactivate your phone with AT&T it can no longer receive a wipe command via cellular service. This means WiFi was the only way it would get the command, and for a reason I can’t remember I had turned off my WiFi service (or perhaps the person who found my phone had done that). Without being able to hit the Internet, the phone couldn’t get the wipe command.
I had told the security guard to turn off the phone immediately because I knew if it hit WiFi I was doomed. When my phone was due to arrive I unplugged my cable modem so I could back up my iPhone with iTunes. Once it was safely backed up, I plugged in the cable modem and it promptly wiped itself. I got an email notifying me it was wiped too.
I restored my backup copy and my iPhone was as good as new. If circumstances at work had been different, I would have returned my overpriced and lame iPhone 5 and kept my iPhone 4s as my primary phone. However, that didn’t work out that day and the next day it was past the 14 day return period.
- iCloud doesn’t back up your phone unless you are connected to a WiFi network while your phone is inactive (locked in my case). Since I was in a hotel with WiFi that required a passcode, I wasn’t using WiFi so my weeks worth of photos were not restored to my iPad I had purchased to substitute for my phone while I was in New York (because 32-bit iPhone 4s and iPhone 5’s were unavailable).
- Jorge Enrique Rivas at the Apple Store in Grand Central Station is the nicest guy on the planet. He patiently did everything he could for me to get me online again with an iPad cellar (after trying hard to find a 32GB iPhone 4s or iPhone 5 for me). If you are ever in New York and have a phone crisis – he’s your man!
- When drinking at a party and having fun getting your photo taken with wax figures, make damn sure you keep your phone in your pocket. Don’t be a dumb ass and put your phone on your friends jacket for just a minute. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb!!!!
- Stay at the New Yorker Hotel when in New York – they have a super honest security staff that you can trust! Madame Tussauds security staff is pretty awesome too!
- New Yorkers are much more honest and nice than I think they get credit for!
And of course, the biggest lesson learned? Robert was right – what goes around comes around. I had done a nice thing for him – multiple times, so several people did a nice thing for me and returned my iPhone. He’s also right about the fact that there is a God, and God has a way of sorting things out.
Donate to the Red Cross to help friendly New Yorkers
My prayers go out to the people of New York who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. If you haven’t already, please making a donation to the American Red Cross or the charity of your choice to help the people of New York recover from this horrible tragedy.
God bless the people of New York and know that you are in my prayers!!
This article does not contain any commissioned links. This is a true story.