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In all honesty, not all Las Vegas cabbies fit portrayal as a greedy bunch

M.J. Luck came to Las Vegas to put down some sports bets, or as he likes to say, visit his money. The Louisiana man was traveling with a friend. When they arrived at the hotel on May 2, each one thought the other had picked up the small bag with Luck’s medicine — and $10,000 cash.

The cab left with the bag in the back seat. Luck didn’t remember the name of the cab company, just that the driver was Hispanic. That was a Saturday. On Tuesday, he received a call from Frias Transportation, parent company of various cab companies. His bag was returned before he left town.

An honest cabbie, who preferred not to be identified, had turned in Luck’s gambling money.

People are flabbergasted when Luck tells how all his cash was returned. “Times are tough on everybody and you don’t think you’re going to get it back.”

Luck left a $1,000 tip to be shared by the cabbies, “but I feel like I got a $9,000 tip.”

In May, Samuel Bekele, 28, a cabbie for Yellow-Checker-Star Transportation, found $6,500 in his cab. It also was returned.

Bekele’s reward: $100 from the customer and his company honored him as employee of the month, which includes benefits like free dinners and a good parking spot at the company. Bekele, originally from Ethiopia, said his father “always taught me to be honest for everything.”

On April 10, cabbie John Battenfield, also with Yellow-Checker-Star, found a bag in his cab but never looked into it. At the end of his shift, he turned it in and inside was jewelry that was valued as much as $150,000 (and as little as $1,500).

Battenfield, 36, said he didn’t get a reward but, “It’s not fair for me to expect a reward for doing what I’m supposed to do.” His parents, who raised him in the small town of Ballston Spa, N.Y., taught him to be honest. “My mom and dad definitely didn’t like lying. They encouraged me to be honest. If I was honest, it would generally go a little easier on me.”

Maggie Perkins handles lost and found for Yellow-Checker-Star. “I ship out seven to 15 packages a week,” Perkins said. “Most of the time it’s cell phones, wallets containing money, very expensive cameras and laptops.”

Since many of the items are shipped around the world and are valuable, she asks if the shipping fees can be charged to the customer’s credit card. The jewelry owner, who first said his jewelry needed to be insured for $150,000, was one whose credit card was maxed out and wouldn’t accept the shipping charge. Suddenly the jewelry was worth $1,500.

Gordon Walker, administrator of the Taxicab Authority, said he wasn’t surprised at the honesty of the three cab drivers. “Cab drivers are like anybody else. Nine out of 10 will do the right thing and turn this stuff in.”

Each cab company handles its own lost and found, but since most people don’t pay attention to the name of the cab company they used, the Taxicab Authority’s web site www.taxi.state.nv.us shows photos if someone happens to remember what the cab looked like.

In 2008, out of $210,000 worth of property reported lost to the authority, $81,436 was recovered and returned — less than half.

Generally the lost property is what you’d expect. But there was the woman desperate to recover the full-length picture of herself in a bathtub of cigars. Cigars and nothing else.

Las Vegas cabbies are often portrayed as a greedy lot who spend their time rushing tourists to topless clubs in order to get big tips. It would have been easy for any of these three cabbies to say the next passenger must have taken the bag with the $10,000, the $6,500 or the jewelry of uncertain value. But each man did the right thing.

Maybe they feared a sting operation. But let’s give these guys the benefit of the doubt.

At a time when anybody could use extra cash, these Las Vegas cabbies were honest. They did what their folks taught them, whether their folks were Hispanic or from Ethiopia or lived in a small town in New York.

Honesty is learned, just like dishonesty.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison/.

 

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