A Seacoast woman had a surprise when she returned home from Europe and started unpacking the Christmas gifts she has carefully selected: garbage and animal food.

When Gina Sheldon of Portsmouth opened her luggage from an 11 day trip to Italy and France she expected to find all the Christmas gifts and handblown glass ornaments and chocolates she carefully selected and was looking forward to giving to family.

"I did all of my holiday shopping. I bought leather and suede belts for my niece and nephews. I got a leather jacket for my son.  I got designer sweatshirts for my boys. I bought leather satchels for my friends. A rain jacket. I had dried pasta special from Rome," Sheldon told Seacoast Current."

Sheldon said the luggage was with her at all times until she checked it at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for her Delta flight back to Boston. When she opened her luggage up two days later Sheldon said everything was gone.

Instead, she found plastic shopping bags filled with dirty T-shirts, shampoo, and plastic shopping bags filled with animal food kibble.

"I was in complete shock. I was like 'wait. What happened?' It took a good 24 hours to register," Sheldon said.

The items were placed in her bags so that they didn't raise suspicion when they were scanned by customs. The luggage had a tag with her name on it when she claimed it.

"It looks like you bought a lot of pasta," a customs agent told Sheldon.

Luggage tag on Gina Sheldon's luggage
Luggage tag on Gina Sheldon's luggage (Gina Sheldon)

A Not So Holly Jolly Christmas

Sheldon said she spent a total of 20 hours on hold with trying to speak to someone who could help and turned to social media for assistance.

"I sent emails, I put something on Delta's Twitter and ultimately I reverted to Facebook. It was like 'someone help me out. Please,'" Sheldon said.

Help came in the form of a friend Sheldon had not spoken to in 20 years who also works for NBC New York. He noticed her Facebook post and got a story for NBC Boston which was the first to report on this story. It also got her a call from Delta within five hours of her story first airing.

"Delta apologized, said they had no knowledge of this going on. The ironic thing was that I couldn't even file a claim because I needed a reference number. In order to get a reference you have to talk to someone," Sheldon said.

The handpicked, carefully selected gifts she had planned to give turned quite normal because of the missing gifts and she wound up selecting "regular" items instead like video games and bottles of wine.

"There's nothing (Delta) can do. I'm trying to be like 'okay, let it go. It's just material stuff.' Hopefully they'll reimburse me and maybe I'll get another trip to Italy. It's just unfortunte.

“We apologize for this customer’s experience following Air France flight 334. We have affirmatively connected with our partners at Air France and the customer to find a resolution," Delta spokeswoman Kate Modolo told Seacoast Current.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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