$16,000 in cash
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In March 2009, upon pulling up to the Hyatt Regency in Chicago in a hired car, a guest left a briefcase filled with $16,000 in the back seat. It was later returned to the owner.
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updated 12/11/2009 4:05:15 PM ET 2009-12-11T21:05:15

The internationally famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma has stayed in hundreds, perhaps even thousands of hotel rooms during his three-decade-long music career. So there was nothing immediately unusual about his visit to New York City’s Peninsula Hotel on October 16, 1999.

Nothing unusual, that is, until the taxi Ma had taken to the hotel after an appearance at Carnegie Hall pulled away—with his irreplaceable $2.5-million cello in the trunk.

“I made a stupid mistake and I just left without it,” Ma explained sheepishly the next day to tabloid reporters, who had jumped on the story in a New York minute. In the meantime, though, Peninsula Hotel staffers had put on their own virtuoso performance, contacting officials all over town in order to track down the missing instrument (which was safely returned to Ma without incident).

Not every left-behind item requires quite the level of panic that Ma’s forgotten cello created. But hotel staffers around the world have all had to figure out how to reunite mislaid possessions—sometimes truly strange ones—with their owners.

While many of us who travel have probably left behind our house keys, umbrella, or scarf at least once (and blamed jet lag—or just being “in vacation mode”), how many people do you know who have left an entire haul of neatly wrapped Christmas presents in their hotel room? Or, for that matter, a cheeky French maid’s costume? Or a briefcase full of cash?

No matter how bizarre their findings, however, hotel staffers are professionally trained to keep their judgments in check. Amy Finsilver, the general manager at Boston’s XV Beacon Hotel, says she demands that her employees adhere to a strict policy of discretion. “Nothing that ends up in our lost and found—short of a space alien—shocks us,” Finsilver says. “We’ve seen it all.”

From a sea of forgotten toothbrushes and cell phone chargers, we’ve collected the strangest found-item stories from hotels around the world. Here’s hoping yours don’t ever make the list.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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