FREEPORT, Maine — Chris Byrne glanced down at the sidewalk in downtown Freeport on Sunday night and said to his wife, “Someone lost their gift card. That sucks.”
He picked it up and planned to call the store the next morning to find out who lost the card, so he could return it.
But the store’s customer service department couldn’t locate the owner, although the representative told him it was a recent purchase and still active. The store actually told Byrne he could keep the card if he wanted.
“It didn’t feel right,” Byrne, 33, of South Portland, said Thursday. “It’s somebody’s gift, somebody’s hard-earned money that they’re [spending] to gift someone.”
So Byrne posted on Facebook and Twitter seeking information about the original cardholder, and asking people to contact him if they knew who might have lost the card.
Later, he took to the Craigslist Lost and Found section, penning an eloquent plea for help under the heading, “Found: A Lonely Gift Card Missing Its Home.”
Byrne deduced from the words “Gift Card” that it was just that. But beyond that, he said, his find is a mystery. He’s withholding the value and store’s name, because the true owner would know those details.
“Sure, the smart money is it being a Christmas-related gift,” Byrne wrote. “But perhaps it is someone who is late in giving their Hanukkah gift? Or maybe it is a wedding or anniversary gift! Perhaps even still it could be a birthday present — and not just J.C.’s birthday from ‘The Big Upstairs.’ Heck, it could even be a ‘break up’ gift. A surefire, albeit misguided in my opinion, way to prove, ‘It is not you it is me, see I got you a gift card to make you feel better.’
“Regardless of the motivation behind the purchase, I am sure that the purchaser is some combination of irritated, confused, sad, angry and perhaps even cursing the spirits of the universe that landed them in such a predicament,” he continued. “Additionally, I am sure that the card is sad and lonely knowing that it is not going to end up with its intended recipient! All in all, it is a lose, lose, lose situation. And no one likes to see that.”
Byrne asked those who read the ad to repost or share it via other social media, school and professional networks. He asked that anyone who thinks it might be their card email him to identify it.
As of Friday, his ad had not linked the card to its owner, but it did generate a lot of good will and praise for the extent of his effort.
A few people have responded to the Craigslist ad asking about the amount or the name of the retailer, but Byrne said most of the responses have been “positive affirmations of, ‘This is great, this is awesome.’” But so far, the true owner has not emerged.
Should no one claim the gift card by Jan. 1, Byrne will donate it to the American Cancer Society — a favorite charity, he said.
Byrne said he knows other people might have just used the card, but that his decision to seek out its owner was “so small and so easy and so basic — I can’t imagine not doing it.”
“I choose to look at the world in a more positive light,” he said. “I guess my perspective is the world is a good place. There are far more good people than bad people. Something like this seems so small that the positive affirmations I’ve been receiving from Craigslist kind of blow my mind … When you look around your community, you realize there are so many people who do far greater things, far more impactful things that are far more important to the livelihood of the community.”