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Lost In Austria? McDonald's Can Help With A Hotline To The U.S. Embassy


Maybe you know this feeling. You're traveling abroad - say, Vienna. You've hoofed it from the Staatsoper to Stephansdom Cathedral. You stop for coffee in one of the city's famous cafes. And then...

DIANE SCHMALLEGGER: We sat around. And then we got up. And we realized, oh, my gosh, we don't know where our passports are. So we were kind of panicking.

KELLY: That's Diane Schmallegger of Las Vegas. We reached her in Austria today via Skype. She and her husband had retraced their steps scouring the sidewalks but no luck.


Then, right before she might have totally freaked out, she remembered a Facebook post a friend had shared with her. It was announcing a new partnership between the U.S. Embassy in Austria and - we're not making this up - McDonald's. It said that, in an emergency, Americans could go into any Mickey D's location in the country and get help. Like many people on the Internet, Schmallegger rolled her eyes at first.

SCHMALLEGGER: When I read it, I thought, oh, what kind of stupid American's going to lose their passport in the middle of Vienna?

KELLY: But now that she was that American, she was relieved to look up and see a beacon of hope.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).

SCHMALLEGGER: I walked up to the counter. And I said, I'm an American. And I lost my passport. And I heard that McDonald's could help me.

CORNISH: She says she got a skeptical look, but the cashier called over her manager, and as advertised, he was ready to lend a hand and get Schmallegger connected with the U.S. Consulate.

SCHMALLEGGER: He was very helpful. He started making all these phone calls. And he wrote down all the information that I needed. He wrote down the hours I needed to go there.

CORNISH: Not everyone is excited about the program. One commenter on Facebook wrote...

KELLY: Quote, "this seems to be an endorsement for a specific corporation. I would prefer if the government and corporations were kept separate."

CORNISH: The U.S. Embassy, for its part, sent along a statement. As part of our commitment to assisting U.S. citizens in need overseas, from time to time, we work with private sector and other nongovernment entities. Schmallegger's story had a happy ending. Someone found her missing items and turned them into the city's lost and found.

KELLY: And she gave glowing reviews of the new program. There was only one thing missing.

SCHMALLEGGER: No fries with that. OK, that was disappointing. But I did get very friendly service and somebody who wasn't looking at me like an idiot.

KELLY: Although if you do have your passport in hand, might we suggest enjoying an authentic wienerschnitzel instead? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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