Rental Karma

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.

I arrived in Minneapolis last night and drove to our hotel about 15 miles away from too far from anything.

I was so exhausted I forgot my room number on the second trip with my video gear and other luggage. Then I remembered: 420. Something to do with Marijuana laws. Though I don’t smoke it myself, I remember something about April 20th being important to cannabis activists. And the number is also the name of one of my favorite beers in Atlanta – Sweetwater 420.

This morning, waking from making a healthy deposit at the sleep bank after a week of steady withdrawals, I went out to grab some coffee. When I opened the car door, I saw a little white cell phone on the seat. I must have been sitting on it last night and didn’t notice.

The previous renter of this fine Ford Taurus must have left it behind, I thought. I’ll call my phone with it, find their number and let T-Mobile know their customer left the phone in the car. I’d leave the phone at the hotel front desk for pickup and feel good about doing something nice.

The service was blocked. I couldn’t get the number.

So I called the CAR RENTAL customer service. The call went something like this:

CRAIG: Hi, I rented a car last night and this morning discovered a phone on the seat.
CAR RENTAL:  Yes, and how can I help you?
CRAIG: I figure the person who lost the phone will want it back. I tried to call my own phone from it, but the number’s been blocked. Can you help me get the phone to its owner?
CAR RENTAL: What’s the car number?
I checked my contract.
CRAIG: [says number]
CAR RENTAL: You’re set to return the car Sunday at 7 pm. Would you like to extend it?
CRAIG: No, I’m calling because I found a phone in the car.
CAR RENTAL: You have a car phone? This is a Ford Taurus, right? I don’t see that equipment in our computer.
CRAIG: How can I explain this? Okay, so I got in the car this morning and I found someone else’s phone. Probably the previous renter. I’m sure they’ll want it back. This is lost and found, right?
CAR RENTAL: Who’s phone is it?
CRAIG: How would I know? That’s why I’m calling you.
CAR RENTAL: We don’t offer phones.
CRAIG: Look. All I want is to see if the previous renter called to say the phone is missing.
CAR RENTAL: Okay. Can you send to us at the dispatch office?
CRAIG: By mail? Can’t I just give it to someone when I return the car?
CAR RENTAL: Oh, okay, give it to the manager.

Etc. etc.

I drove to the nearest plaza and got my coffee. There was a T-Mobile office right next door.

Within a minute, a happy customer service guy heard my story, took the phone and promised to check the SIM card and find its owner.

“Thanks for doing this,” he said. “Most people wouldn’t.”

Maybe not. But after adding a few hours to the sleep bank, I figure a little deposit to the karma cache may also pay off down the road.

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More from Denver

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The tower in the background is a ride at Elitch Gardens, the amusement park that had to close (presumably for security) while the Dems party next door.

Family Tech

Technology is everywhere. And, on the web, there are countless sources of information and advice about the latest gadgets, googaws, stylish hardware and killer apps.

Creating a new approach to tech advice and reviews is a challenge, but with TIME reporter Josh Quittner, I’m having a lot of fun trying.

Josh knows tech. He’s been writing about it for years, at TIME and Newsday as well as Wired. He’s the former editor of Business 2.0 and was recently an executive editor at FORTUNE.

And he has a wife, three kids and two dogs. It’s this part of his bio — the family part — we’re putting to good use (with a twist) in these Family Tech videos, which we hope will be a weekly feature on TIME.com.

The latest one is climbing the charts of the most popular videos on TIME.com. I think we’re onto something.

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Beer Pong

Every generation has its drinking game.

In a story in this week’s TIME magazine, I learned of a game the ancient Greeks played called Kottabos, which, according to the article, “involved flinging the residue from the bottom of their cups of wine at a target.”

In my college days it was quarters — bounce a coin off the table into a short glass of beer and you can point to anyone at the table you want to drink it. It was usually the most obnoxious person at the table who everyone made drink the most… one of the reasons I drank more than my fair share in college.

And even though every state now has designed its own gaming device — with the 50 different quarter-dollars in circulation — these days, quarters have given way to ping pong balls as the projectile of choice to fling at malted beverages.

It’s called Beer Pong, and it’s all the rage, with several bars in New York city sporting the special tables for the game.

Last Thursday night, I spent a few hours with some of Beer Pong’s top tournament players in the New York area. Two young guys from Long Island drove in to Manhattan to meet me at Wicked Willy’s in the village before heading out later to White Plains to participate in a thousand-dollar tournament that night.

I shot video of it to accompany the story in TIME magazine. If central casting had beer pong players from Long Island among its roster, these guys would be it.