San Francisco, CA
Friday, 25 April 2014

Blessings in disguise

After I was robbed, my banker paid for my laptop… with his PERSONAL credit card!?

The customer service story you won’t believe.

On Wednesday night, I went dancing in Oakland with my lovely date and her friend. When we left the venue to drive home to San Francisco, the back window of her friend’s Prius had been smashed, and all of our belongings stolen. My date lost her purse, phone, jewlery and more. I lost my phone, laptop, wallet, backpack, and company checkbook (which I had to have on my person that day for an errand earlier) etc.

Over the last month, I’ve had a number of perspective-shifting conversations that have helped me internalize the wisdom that while events are often beyond our control, how we respond to them is within our control. Exercising this power can give us freedom.

I experienced a range of emotions after being robbed. I felt angry: at myself for being foolish, at the perpetrators, at the police, at the government, at the “broken system”, etc. I felt like a victim. I felt: violated, powerless, afraid, stressed, confused.

But I give credit to my dancing partner that evening for helping me see beyond these feelings. To see that they don’t serve me. To see that I could choose to engage with them or not. To see “my power” as perspective. To see that I could find an empowering meaning to give to this story. To see that what I make of all this is up to me!

What if this was a blessing in disguise? I thought that my phone, laptop, and wallet were the most valuable things I own. But once they were stolen for (yes, for, not from — not a typo) me, I realized that they were not. I lost some time and some money. But I gained some perspective. And that is not only far more valuable, it can’t be taken away from me.

Possessions are not wealth. Perspective is wealth. Relationships are wealth. Health is wealth. Happiness is wealth. Time is wealth. Freedom is wealth. The only person that can steal these things from me, is me.

I called and Silicon Valley Bank to cancel my cards and order new ones. Because the checkbook was compromised, a hold had to be put on our company account and a new account created. A new iPhone was ordered and shipped. A lesson in the replaceability of stuff…

I got back into my apartment, grabbed my passport and checkbook, and went to the Apple Store on Chestnut Street to buy a new laptop. For whatever reason, Apple’s system did not accept the check, even though Silicon Valley Bank was on the phone authorizing the transaction, which was really frustrating.

So our representative at SVB, Faisal Mostamandy, came up with a plan. He got my authorization to issue a cashier’s check for the transaction amount, he picked up the check from the Menlo Park branch, and we made an appointment to meet at 10 AM the next morning (today: Friday) at the Apple Store on Stockton Street downtown with the cashier’s check in hand.

And I went about my day.

  • Because I couldn’t pay for food, people treated me.
  • Because I didn’t have devices, people let me use theirs.
  • I enjoyed the opportunity to ask for and receive kindness of others.
  • I enjoyed being off the grid. I was more present in meetings.

Last night, I went to bed early, and this morning, I woke up on time, without an alarm. I went to the gym and worked out without headphones — what a concept! Then I changed and walked downtown to meet Faisal.

Faisal was there waiting for me. Not only did he have the cashier’s check, he had thoughtfully prepared paperwork to open the new account, to save me time and hassle later.

But Apple still wouldn’t accept the cashier’s check! We went back and forth with them, and as usual, Apple employees were professional, kind, and did their best — but for some reason, their system kept rejecting it, and they couldn’t override it.

Again: there was a choice. To view the situation as frustrating, or… to find some humor in it? It’s pretty funny to see three individuals — a banker, an entrepreneur with a good-as-gold cashier’s check, and an Apple team member — stumped by the ridiculousness of “the system”, but getting increasingly creative about problem-solving.

What should we do now?!

I don’t have a car, so I can’t drive to the Menlo Park branch to pick up cash. I don’t even have cash for CalTrain, but even if I did, I don’t want to spend a whole day on this errand. We’ve got a big announcement next week and emails are piling up…

All of a sudden, Faisal had a look in his eyes.

He took out his wallet…

Pulled out his personal card…

And gave it to the Apple team.

“Put it on my card,” he said.

I shook his hand, said “reimbursement on the way”, and a minute later, walked out of the store, sword in hand, ready to conquer my day.

There’s a reason why three-quarters of the startups in the Bay Area bank with Silicon Valley Bank. It’s not because their website is pretty. It’s because they care about entrepreneurs. While we were waiting, Faisal was telling me about how he used to bank Dropbox before they out-grew the early-stage team.

In doing what he did, he showed me the value SVB places on their relationships and their sense of duty and professionalism.

And I am impressed.

After being robbed, it’s tempting to become cynical about human nature. But then this happened. And I was reminded… The robbery merely gave me an opportunity to witness, not human nature at its worst…

But at its best.

Thank you!