(YPSILANTI, Mich.) — A Michigan mom who was hoping for a Christmas miracle after she placed $700 worth of gifts in the wrong car was heartbroken when a store informed her that someone had tried to cash in on her mistake.
Linda Gipson, of Ypsilanti, accidentally placed boxes and bags of gifts in the wrong Ford Focus parked at a mall on Dec. 15.
The mom of five said she’d put the presents in the car and then returned to shop for another hour, only to emerge and realize she had made a terrible mistake.
“I parked in aisle 10, and the car wasn’t there, so I turned around and saw a similar silver Ford Focus and realized that I must have used my key to open the trunk of the wrong car, because the car I put the gifts in was gone and my car was still in the lot,” Gipson said. She was shocked to realize that her car key could work on the trunk of another car.
Now Gipson said she has little hope of recovering the gifts, especially after a store called her to report that a young woman had tried to exchange two of Gipson’s gifts for cash. Gipson, who’d immediately notified all the stores of the mix-up, said the store manager at Arden B recognized the items and put a stop on the return. Gipson said the manager even noticed that the items were linked to the name of Gipson’s daughter, who has a frequent shopper card at Arden B.
Gipson and police were stunned to realize that her car key had successfully worked to open the trunk of an identical car, which Gipson said led to the mix-up in the first place.
“I’m not an expert on keys and how many different combinations they have but — it’s a one in a million chance that this could happen. It’s possible the trunk she went up to wasn’t closed all the way. There are so many different possibilities but all of them remote,” said Novi Assistant Police Chief Tom Lindberg.
ABC News checked with a variety of Ford dealers and locksmiths across the country, all of who said the same thing: Car keys are unique — one of a kind — and it would be virtually impossible for one car key to open a different car’s door or trunk, even a car of the same year and model.
Gipson said she still had some presents for her children, ages 11 through 24, tucked away for Christmas morning, and had received donations from people who heard her story, although she insisted to the donors she was not asking for help.
“I don’t know what else to say. It’s sad,” Gipson said.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Erin McClam, CNN
Kyung Lah and Alberto Moya, CNN
Seth Fiegerman, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN