How not to get lost this summer
Kindle readers are one of the most common misplaced items, and airlines have a procedure for tracking down the owners of these and other valuables. (Eric Piermont, Getty-AFP Photo)
In their hurry to avoid holiday traffic, Mangold left her $680 in cash in their room at the Hampton Inn and Suites Islamorada.
Key West, on a busy Labor Day weekend," says Mangold, a nurse practitioner from Philadelphia. "I immediately took my phone out to call the Hampton Inn. I looked at my missed calls and found that they were trying to reach me."
Turns out, a housekeeper had found the cash. The hotel overnighted it to Key West at no charge.
"We were more than grateful," says Mangold.
Not every lost story has a happy ending, and although the travel industry doesn't keep any meaningful statistics on the items travelers lose every year, my own experience as an advocate for travelers suggests that summer is high season for losses.
And unfortunately, the lost items often stay lost.
Consider what happened when Leslie Bonner left her Kindle on a recent Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Kindle readers are one of the most common misplaced items, and airlines have a procedure for tracking down the owners of these and other valuables. More on that in a minute.
"When I called the lost-and-found department the next day, a representative said, 'You wouldn't believe how many Kindles we have here,'" remembers Bonner, a retired college administrator from Merced, Calif. "The person I was talking to found it very amusing. I asked if they had one in a brown leather cover that had a built-in light, and she quickly answered 'no.' Now how did they know that, if they had so many, and she didn't even take a second to look?"
Her Kindle stayed lost.
"I have an iPad now, and you can bet it will never see a seat pocket on a flight," Bonner adds.
With millions of Americans hitting the road this summer, I'm sure that this won't be the only story I get about a lost item. Fortunately, you don't have to become another statistic.
At a large hotel or a chain property, valuables that are left behind are normally logged into a lost-and-found database.
"If an item is found by hotel employees or other guests and is of a certain value," it's "placed in a secure location or a safe," says John Wolf, a spokesman for Marriott International. "Guests are asked to identify and describe the lost property. When an item is claimed, the guest's information is added to the log for our records."
Hotel lost-and-found practices vary by state, country and hotel size. A smaller inn, for example, is unlikely to have a database and will keep unclaimed items in a box or a closet. But the process of tracking down your lost cellphone (Wolf says it's the most common lost item at Marriott) or anything else you may leave behind is the same:
Contact the property as soon as possible and let it know which room you stayed in and when. Leave your contact information, too.
Car rental companies have a similar lost-and-found policy, according to Sharon Faulkner, the executive director of the American Car Rental Association. Normally, a company can track down the customer based on rental records, and a car rental location typically keeps lost items for at least six months. But reuniting drivers with their possessions is often a challenge.
"Problem is, people hide their valuables like cameras under the seats while vacationing and then forget them," she says. "Sometimes we didn't find them during prep and the customer would call weeks after their rental, because they would suddenly realize they'd forgotten their camera, their binoculars, the little purchased memory of a jar of jam, maple syrup, or seashells -- all deeply pushed up under a seat to hide them from potential thieves."
By then, it's often too late. The car rental company has sold or given away the item. So Faulkner offers the same advice as Marriott: Let the car rental location know about your loss as soon as possible.