Son of store owner says he has no regrets about returning the ticket
By Kate Northrop
SALINA, Kan. — A Kansas convenience store owner made a million-dollar decision to hunt down the longtime customer that had accidentally left behind a winning lottery ticket.
A Kansas Lottery retailer held itself to the highest degree of integrity when the store's associates tracked down the loyal customer who had forgotten a $1 million winning lottery ticket on the counter.
Kal Patel's parents own the Pit Stop convenience store on West Cloud Street in Salina. On March 18, he received a call from Andy Patel (no relation), the store's clerk, that a customer left behind a million-dollar winning lottery ticket.
"He said six zeroes were popping up on the screen," Kal told the Salina Journal. "We couldn't believe it."
Three months later, Kal says he did not regret passing up a million bucks to do the right thing.
"I knew it was a longtime customer who had left it here," he continued. "They didn't know they had the winning ticket, so they never would have known if I hadn't found them. But then you'd have to live through the guilt of that all your life."
Andy discovered the slip of paper in question when a regular customer had stopped by with three folded lottery tickets he had bought at a different store in Lincoln. The player asked Andy to check them for any winners, but had only checked two tickets. He didn't realize it at first, but by the time the customer left the store, he noticed a third ticket sitting on the counter. Of the three tickets, that one had been worth $1 million.
The ticket was part of the Mega Millions drawing where the winner matched the first five lottery numbers 1, 13, 26, 33, and 52, just missing the Mega Ball number 11.
The clerk then called Kal, who immediately came to the store and took note of the man's description from Andy. Thinking he might have an idea of who the customer was, he made it his mission to track him down and hopped in his car to give chase.
"I went into the neighborhood where I knew he lived, but I couldn't find him," Kal recounted to the Salina Journal. "Their cars weren't outside or anything, and I couldn't find their house, exactly which one it was."
But his efforts to locate the winner were for naught, and so he resolved that he would simply hand it to the customer next time he visited the store.
However, he had a sudden change of heart. Getting into his car again, he decided he would take one more drive around the area.
This time, Kal saw the lucky customer and his brother in their car. He followed, and they all eventually stopped once they recognized him.
"I showed them the ticket and told them they were winners," Kal recounted. "They started shaking. They couldn't believe it."
Kal and the shocked brothers drove back to the Pit Stop so they could recheck the numbers and see the proof themselves.
"All of them matched with winning numbers, and that's how they were millionaires," he concluded.
Since returning the rightful ticket to its owner, Kal said he has only seen the customer once.
"The day after they went to Topeka, they stopped in for a soda," he explained. "I haven't seen them since. It surprised me. I had no indication where they were going."
According to Kal, his friends have also chastised him for giving up a million dollars, but he felt he would do the same thing again if given the chance.
"If it had just been dropped and we didn't know who it was, then we wouldn't have known where to look," he remarked. "But we did. It felt good to give it to them. And the praise we got back from everyone for doing this was really nice. They said it restored their faith in humanity."
"Good deeds come back to help you, and bad deeds come back to haunt you," Kal said. "It felt good to find it and then find them."