Lost-and-found tips for travelers
“Twenty years later I can hardly imagine that a stuffed teddy bear not only traveled back across several states thanks to some very kind airline employees,” Clardy Chalmers said by e-mail, but also “was simply handed over to someone who said they knew my family.”
Every hour, if not every minute, some traveler somewhere forgets a personal item in an airport terminal, on a plane, in a hotel room or in a rental car. You’d think we’d learn to check the guest room outlet for the charger, the seat pocket for the iPad and the rental car trunk for the suit bag. But, alas, we don’t.
Fortunately, all is not lost.
The major players — airports, hotels, airlines and car rental agencies — have established procedures regarding travelers’ misplaced goods. Company Web sites feature detailed forms and phone numbers to help track down items. On the ground, employees sweep hotel rooms and plane and car seats, turning any finds over to the lost-and-found department — or drawer. (One unfortunate reality: the staff member with sticky fingers.) At Washington Dulles, for instance, passengers can knock on a triptych of lost-and-found doors belonging to, from left to right, the Transportation Security Administration, the airport and United Airlines.
“My advice is to be really proactive,” said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, “and hound them about getting it back.”
At the start of your quest, contact the correct authority to avoid the telephone-passing game. Check the airport lost and found for items left in parking lots, public spaces, concessions and post-security dressing areas, as well as curbside or on shuttle buses. Contact the TSA for objects abandoned in trays and on X-ray belts. Notify the airline about articles forgotten at the ticketing counter, at the gate or aboard the plane. For hotels, try the front desk first, then housekeeping. For rental cars, go straight to the local source, not the forever loop of nationwide reservations.
Allow me to speak from experience. On a recent trip to Columbia, S.C., I flew home without my black tank top, last seen drying in the back of the hatchback. I connected with Lucinda Adams, who runs lost and found for some of the airport’s rental car agencies. For more than a week, Lucinda phoned in her updates, a rolling sea of promise and futility. She delivered the bad news one morning: The renter after me had searched the vehicle but had come up empty-handed.