Workers dive into trash to rescue woman’s $1,200 lottery ticket, Oregon officials say

Workers at this Oregon lottery retailer probably earned a bonus — and definitely earned a shower.

Employees at The Lucky Spot deli in Portland went Dumpster diving through an estimated six bags of garbage last week on the hunt for a $1,200 lottery ticket, after winner Mary Peabody lost it at the store, according to a news release from Oregon Lottery.

Peabody had gone to the retailer hoping to claim her substantial prize from playing Keno10-spot — but because the pay-out was more than $600 she had to claim her prize at the Oregon Lottery, and “in the excitement she accidentally left her unsigned ticket behind,” state lottery officials said.

Peabody realized she’d inadvertently abandoned the winning ticket there the next day, and by that point it had vanished.

“The clerk was really upset that the ticket was lost,” Peabody said, according to Oregon Lottery. “At that point, we thought we had lost $1,200.”

That’s when the workers went above and beyond.

“I thought it might have ended up in the garbage on accident,” said Dena Thompson, the manager of The Lucky Spot, according to Oregon Lottery. “I went out to see if the dumpster had been emptied and it hadn’t yet. So my staff and some of my friends started looking for the ticket.”

It was a long and methodical process, FOX 12 reports.

“Went through everything and we just brought all the trash in and we lined it up on the outside and brought some inside and started going through it one by one,” Thompson said, according to the TV station.

Sure enough, there it was: The unsigned ticket was found intact. Oregon Lottery shared a photo showing Thompson holding the ticket in front of a Dumpster.

Dena Thompson, manager of The Lucky Spot deli in Portland, Oregon, recruited workers and friends to help her Dumpster dive for the winning lottery ticket. Oregon Lottery

But then the workers had to find Peabody.

“I couldn’t help thinking that this was crazy, we found it!” Thompson said, according to KCBY. “We didn’t have a phone number for Mary, so we held onto it until she came in again. I am so proud of our staff for being so honest. Anyone could have found that ticket and signed the back and claimed the prize.”

Law dictates that lottery tickets belong to the individual who signs them, “which is why the Oregon Lottery always urges people to sign the back of their tickets as soon as possible,” officials said.

Lottery spokesman Patrick Johnson said that means that another person who found Peabody’s ticket could have grabbed it and cashed in themselves, the Oregonian reports.

“You don’t expect people to do that for you,” Peabody said of the workers’ Dumpster diving, according to the Oregonian, adding that “[Thompson] was almost in tears when she told me they found the ticket.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.