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Posted on Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Christmas presents wind up in wrong car; will driver return them?

By Cindy Heflin

An Ypsilanti woman hopes the driver who ended up with $700 worth of Christmas presents she and her husband purchased will have enough holiday spirit to return them.

Otherwise, the Gipson family will have to make do with very few presents under the tree Christmas morning.

Linda Gipson said she was shopping with her husband and daughter Thursday afternoon at Twelve Oaks mall in Novi when she decided to take a break and drop off some of the packages.

“My arms were full. I put the key in the trunk and opened it up and walked away.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right trunk, she said.

An hour later she came back out and opened the trunk to her own car to discover the gifts weren’t there. Almost immediately, she said she realized her mistake. The other car had been parked nearby and looked like her own silver Ford Focus.

The gifts included some perfume, a pair of boots, a pair of suede shoes, two sweaters, a hat and scarf and something her husband, Ronald, bought for her from a Native American craft store. Many of the gifts were for her daughters, 21 and 17.

She said she reported the incident to mall security, the stores where she made the purchases and Novi police.

Tom Lindberg, deputy police chief for Novi, said mall security cameras had not captured Gipson putting the items in the car. Security cameras at Macy's, outside which Gipson's car was parked, also did not capture any helpful video, he said.

Although it’s very rare for the key from one car to open the trunk of another, it is possible, a service manager at Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor said today.

Gipson, 49, said she can’t replace the gifts. She works as an in-home caregiver and said her only client recently died, leaving her out of work.

“Hopefully someone will call us and just return the gifts, but other than that what can we do?” she said.

Watch a WXYZ video report below.



Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

My spouse spent a grand at toys r us that we could not afford. the christmas season gets some people in a mentally challenged state of mind.


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 9:13 a.m.

Sorry, but this is HILARIOUS


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 3:36 a.m.

Anyone that gives this woman money is a SUCKER.


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 3:10 a.m.

Can you imagine the story in another city's newspaper...." A local woman opens her trunk to find it full of presents from a Secret Santa". Sally from the Valley says she is confused as to why her Secret Santa "would give her a pair of shoes that are too small, boots too big and perfume that makes her sneeze; the hat and scarf however, are perfect".


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 1:40 a.m.

I hope a few days from now we don't read about this being fraud. People have tried to get away with worse things I'm sure (Balloon Boy). It all just seems so very unlikely and the lack of video footage is concerning. Perhaps the security cameras just couldn't get enough detail to figure out the plates or owner of the other car; but if that's the case, the story should have noted that specifically.


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 2:58 a.m.

I agree. When I have my husbands focus I am looking for the plates and two dogs. Unless the dogs are not there then I look for something that I know gives the car away. I too wonder if this is fraud at its best.


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

She's hoping that "the other car owner" returns them or the general public feels bad for her and gives her some presents for her daughters? For spending $700 bucks on Christmas gifts when you're unemployed, one would think you would at least have a car with an automatic trunk release. Not saying that it can't happen, my brother had a Mercury Tracer that keys opened my sisters Ford Escort. Just shows, it's always important, especially this time of year, to be aware of your surroundings, even if they are your own car.


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

My key opens the trunk even though I also have an auto release so I don't think having an auto release would have prevented the situation.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 9:25 p.m.

I'm not sure about that particular Ford Focus, but most car companies use an alphanumeric code system for their keys. In case you lose a key, they can use your key code to make a replacement, without having your other key(s) present. Of course, there can only be a finite number of key codes, which means that there is always the possibility that someone else's keys will open your lock. The odds of both cars being parked in the same parking lot at the same time are slim, but the Focus is a pretty generic car. Either that, or the trunk lock on that car was so worn out, she could have used a screwdriver to open it.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

Spending $700 on gifts when you just lost your job does not seem like a good thing to do - Christmas, or not. Is she sure that they were not stolen from her own trunk? Thieves are clever.


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 2:56 a.m.

I have to agree with this one.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

The trunk of the car was probably already unlocked. Many keys fit into locks and could give the impression that it was unlocking an already unlocked trunk. Regardless this is a super DERP moment.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

Most economy sedans aren't equipped with trunk release handles, so you have to use a key to open them. Also, I would think that while the key may fit into the lock, the lock wouldn't turn, if it wasn't the same key code.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

if a car company produces a car of the same make, model and color with keys that match, don't they have some liability in this situation? It would seem, although the likelihood the the two cars being parked in the same parking lot at the same day and time seems nil, the very fact that they exist should provide some protection for both owners.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

It can happen. Car keys are numerically coded, and only a finite number of possibilities exist. So, in the case of a car like the Focus, which is as common as a cold, the odds of two silver ones with identical keys being in the same row of the same parking lot at the same time, are better than most.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

in the '80s GM keys were notorious for opening other cars, especially Chevys. In my youth we proved this time after time in my old neighborhood. It can happen - but we are skeptics because she claims to have lost gifts so naturally we think this is an angle to get free stuff... is this right? Who knows but there are a lot of scams out there. You would think there is some video that could support her case though.


Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

I also have heard that those little fobs can also unlock some cars and turn on the alarms as well. My fob keeps killing the battery. So I am out 4 bucks every 2 weeks. Kind of sucks that I need to shell out x amount just to keep up with fob. Good luck getting the gifts back. That does suck.

Clinton Resident

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

I'm not saying the story is true or false but your key can fit into another make and model of the same car with no difficulty. I had this happen to me several years ago when my daughter wanted to stay in the mini van as I ran into the store for a minute. I locked for said reason. I came out and watched a lady opening my mini van door with her key. I called the Ford dealer and complained. They told me the key would not have been able to fit in the ignition. Lot of good that did not in this case.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

Ironic ad at the beginning of the video for a Ford Focus!

Roy Munson

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

That is really far fetched. There is a better chance they were placed accidentially in Santa's sleigh than accidentially in another Focus that your key can open with no difficulty. And she didn't notice that maybe the inside of that trunk looked different?


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

It can happen. Car keys are numerically coded, and only a finite number of possibilities exist. So, in the case of a car like the Focus, which is as common as a cold, the odds of two silver ones with identical keys being in the same row of the same parking lot at the same time, are better than most. I'm guessing that if she didn't already notice that she was unlocking the wrong car, she was too preoccupied to notice the inside of her trunk didn't contain the usual flotsam.