Thursday, October 3, 2013

Helping People Return Lost Items to You

Contact Lockscreen app

Back in March 2012, organizer Julie Bestry and I found someone's cell phone in the bathroom of the Baltimore/Washington Airport. Fortunately for the owner, we wanted to return the phone, not steal it. There was no lock screen, so we called the last person the owner had called, and the last person who had called her. One of those people was her sister, who knew where she was flying to — so we were able to find the gate, find her, and return her phone.

All of this made me much more conscious of making it easy for people to return lost items to you when they're trying to be helpful. Here are some ideas.

1. Add your name and contact info to your device’s lock screen.

I do use a lock screen, but mine shows my name and my home office landline number, where I could call and pick up any messages, as well as one of my email addresses. On my iPhone, I used an app called Contact Lockscreen (shown above) to do this, but there are many ways to add text to an image.

2. Label your stuff.

Rachel of the website Small Notebook lost a camera, and was lucky enough to get it back after a few weeks, because someone tried really hard to find the owner. Rachel said, “I realize this whole situation would have been easier if I had put my name and phone number on it.”

3. Leave helpful photos on your camera.

As Eileen notes on Blurb Blog: “Find a piece of paper. Write this on it: If you’ve found this camera, email me at: your email here. Make it large and very clear, and take a picture of it with your camera. Keep that image in your camera always. Why? Because humans are curious and whoever finds your camera will scroll through the photos and come across the photo.”

For more about such a strategy, go to the Digital Photography School website and look at the very funny series of photos that Andrew McDonald left on his camera.

4. Use a service like StuffBak.

StuffBak lets you protect your privacy — your name and contact information are not shown on the labels — while still making it easy for people to report that they‘ve found your item. The labels are available in many shapes and sizes. [via Dumb Little Man and Metafilter]

The rest of the “lost things” series:
How to Avoid Losing Your Keys, Phone, Etc.
Strategies for Finding Lost Things: Phones, Keys, Etc.
Gadgets to Help You Find the Things You Lost
Avoiding Lost Items: Two Special Tools


Claire Josefine said...

I found a wallet on the road a few weeks ago. The guy's driver's license was in there, but I couldn't for the life of me find a phone number so that I could call him, and didn't really want to go way up a country road to a stranger's house to return the wallet. And of course he only had an (unlisted) cell phone. He did have a Costco card with a business name on it, so I looked that up and called. Turns out the business is owned by his dad, who gave me the cell phone number, so all worked out in the end. But it would have been easier if the guy had an "if lost, please call" note in there.

Julie Bestry said...

Don't forget that if you change memory cards in your camera, you need to take that picture of the piece of paper with your contact information again! It's good to make it the first item on your card.

Also, Jeri is too polite to note that after running all over that airport and finally finding the woman to whom the expensive iPhone belonged, she wasn't exactly gushing with gratitude. (She'd not only left her phone in the bathroom, but she'd taken the wrong luggage from security.) If someone is kind enough to return your stuff, be more than perfunctorily gracious. Karma, y'know?