Lost and Found After a Music Festival


Music Festivals are temporary, a sad fact for many attendees (looking at you Burning Man). So what happens with Lost & Found after a Music Festival is over? 

Great question and the answer is it’s complicated… sometimes. It can be done very differently depending on the festival. So we’re going over the common process, some do’s, some don’ts, and why it even matters. 

Music is over but items are still missing.

Pickup Times

This one is pretty straightforward. If items were lost and then subsequently found at a music festival there is a chance to pick up those items at the lost & found tent. 

Common practice for camping festivals allows attendees a window of pickup times during departure, typically 6am-1pm. Always a good plan as some crucial items may be sitting in the L&F waiting for the customer to swing by, like the car keys or even an ID to board that return flight.

Wall of keys hanging
Keys are important...

Clean up and transportation

Items often never show up on time. Once the music stops festival breakdown and cleanup begins. During this time many items are found but are often immediately moved offsite, with no chance for a pickup going forward. So what’s the alternative?

To Ship or Not to Ship

Shipping found items back to customers can vary wildly from festival to festival. Some offer it for free while others have a crazy expensive and archaic process. So let’s break down what you might expect. 

Pickup Only

Not a fan favorite as most festivals pull attendees from well outside the area. Some festivals try to ignore the need and simple say you need to stop by at an undisclosed location, at an undisclosed time, and see if they even have your item. Basically, you are SOL…

Send a Shipping Label

Oh boy is this a common one. After a week or more of back and forth emails and phone calls to see if they have an item and IF it’s even your item, now you get to mail them a shipping label so they can mail that item back. This is really bad practice as it eats up a ton of staff time, creates a poor customer experience, and just adds cost (plus not very green) to the entire process. 

Don't Drop IDs in the mail

Just don’t do it! We covered this topic in an earlier post about dropping IDs in the mail and it’s an awful practice for staff and consumers. Not only does it have a painfully low success rate but also exposes the consumers to malicious intent like ID fraud.

Consumer paying for shipping

Having a consumer pay for shipping of their item is becoming a more common practice for organizations and festivals. Also, a slightly more fair process for both the staff and consumer (for real, you lost it so you might as well pay to get it back). This can be done a few ways, outside of the “mail us a label mess”. 

If you have an amazing system like the Liff App platform it will take care of the process all by itself. Once an item is confirmed staff can have consumers pay for shipping, generate a label, pack the item, and once shipped the consumer will receive a tracking number all the way to delivery.

Common alternatives includes providing a FedEx account number to charge for the label. Unfortunately, this is limited to single carriers and gets extremely tedious with a high number of shipments, not to mention a huge waste of time.

Festival paying for the shipment

A popular one for consumers, but one we suggest avoiding for festival producers. Not only can the cost add up quickly but having a consumer pay for the return of an item is an additional layer of security to ensure they are attempting to get their actual item. Paying to get car keys shipped has an incentive of making sure they are you keys instead of just trying to test a pair. 

Mailboxes on a dirt road

Consumer Communication

Often an afterthought, just like the rest of the lost process, but one that is crucial for consumers. Your festival attendees’ needs spike on the morning after the festival concludes and often over the following few weeks. Without a specifically designated communication medium your attendees will flood anything they can find including; email, phone calls, social media, and even going to your office. 

Best and Worst communication

Best option by far: The customer portal with the Liff App allows the user to search and locate their items, with the added benefit upon submission (wether they found their item or not) of detailing the process and what the consumer should expect going forward.

Worst by far: Phone. Period. It is a poor medium to try to locate, describe, and verify ownership of items, but also can become the most costly. A call into your call center will cost on average $6 with an abysmal success rate. You are essentially paying a premium for poor customer service.

Storage and hold times

Festival producers you’re in for a treat. Lost & Found items can be incredibly varied, come in high volumes, and can be quite pungent (they smell really bad)… This stuff needs to go somewhere and if you don’t have a post-event plan then that often becomes your office. A daily treat to your work life. 

Trash the items instead?

Don’t jump the gun on this too quickly as many states actually have legal requirements on the process of holding Lost & Found items, plus that pile of stuff has a negative environmental impact when getting tossed on the garbage pile. Hold times can be as high as 1 year in states like Illinois or more commonly 90 days in states like California. California also requires a public auction to dispose of a certain value of items after the 90 days so make sure to consult your state and local laws before making any quick decisions.

Why is this important?

Outside of getting the items back to the owners it’s just the right thing to do. Well, lost and found is a common, incredibly intense, and often the final experience for your customer. 

This means it has a powerful influence on their memory and opinion of your event. With a few tweaks, a streamlined Lost & Found operation can turn a lost item into an effective customer retention,  which means more money in your pockets.

Interested in hearing more or want to chat with the Liff Happens Crew? Drop your info below: