Why are you throwing out your hard work?
(Lost and Found)

A not very well known aspect of the Lost and Found process, there is a lot of work that just gets tossed out at the end.

Losing something sucks, but watching your hard work going into the trash also sucks.

Lost and Found can be a fulfilling job to positively impact people’s experiences—a great gig for festival work.

Unfortunately, Lost and Found is not 100% successful. Plus, many processes and several tools create a significant amount of work per item with a negligible impact on success.

All that effort getting thrown out can destroy the soul. Why even try?

Sisyphus doesn't seem fulfilled, but he might just be new to Facebook.

It's not about saving time.

I know it sounds counterproductive, but saving time is often a moot effort. Lost and Found is a bit like an ambulance; you don’t use it frequently, you’re aware it’s out there helping people, but when you need it, you want it now!

A lot of that time is just on call. It’s rarely eight action-packed hours of constant Lost and Found-ing.

Unless it’s day 3 of a music festival cause then that shiz is non-stop.

Lost and Found is an opportunity to massively impact the customer experience for a bit of effort on the organizations’ part. Literally, the customer causes a problem for themselves, and other customers bring you the solution. It’s wild.

Unfortunately, that effort results in just spinning your wheels for the feels. (yes, I’m unashamed of that rhyme)

Narrow the information collected to what's essential.

Found property can be challenging, any number of items and variety could show up in front of you; there’s plenty of news stories talk about all the crazy stuff found in lost and found (google strange AND Lost and Found, for example).

Going through each item in depth, looking for clues, intensely inventorying every aspect of the found property is a heck of a lot of wasted work when the owner never turns up. 

Side note: it’s a little creepy, like a super-specific type of voyeurism. You might have the best intentions, but that’s a bit too invasion-of-privacy-y that does more harm than good. Best to avoid it.

It feels like the right thing to do, but it’s not. In reality, you’re looking for the minimum amount of information to locate the owner and verify they are the actual owner. That’s it!

There is a lot of found property with many customers to help, so too much effort on one item will often miss the low-hanging fruit. 

  • Dang, dangling fruit, and emergency vehicle metaphors, this article has everything. 

It sounds pessimistic, but the neat thing about building tools to fix Lost and Found means we find statistical significance of effort over time. The most balanced approach typically includes a way for owners to take an active role in helping themselves (we did a post on why self-service is the most effective matching algorithm and not… a matching algorithm).

Correlate effort to outcomes.

All items are special snowflakes… bulls**t. 

Fact: At a music festival in a foreign part of the country, that $1,500 iPhone, a foundational tool to interact in the world, going missing is significantly worse than lost RayBans.  

There’s no shame in prioritizing found property, just remember that context matters. Focusing your effort to help your customers’ avoid an awful experience, like flying home without a wallet, is often rewarded.

Inside Lost and Found Baseball Note: Keys are the bane of our Lost and Found existence. 

The only reason most Lost and Founds don’t put more effort into keys isn’t because they aren’t a high priority (seriously, $300-$600 to replace a fob is bonkers), but rather the success rate is low. 

  1. Finding people by their keys is near impossible
  2. The owner usually doesn’t notice until they need them, like back at home, and by then, that person is thousands of miles away with no clue where they could have gone missing. 

Cough cough- we’re working on that so seriously, get a Lost and Found tag at the next event and avoid that whole mess. 

Wallets, phones, or passports have a far outsized impact on individuals’ experience than most other commonly lost items. Putting effort into those higher priority items first will yield significant returns to your customer experience and your sanity.

It makes sense in concept but how do you do it in practice?

With the Liff App, we use technology to simplify that effort (it’s our thing); specifically, this plays out in Match Mode, which helps you use the found stuff to contact owners. 

It’s your basically your CRM (what’s a CRM? Here’s a Salesforce article) for tracking your effort on each item. Plus, it pulls in impactful data, like ticket records, to make finding the potential owner’s contact information easy.

Tossing out your work

No matter how much effort, it’s still not 100% successful (don’t @ me if you are cause it’s a fluke and we know you’re juicing those numbers), and some of that work will be tossed-looking at you found credit cards on the last day of the festival.

You can only hold items for so long and eventually need to clean out the storage for newly found property.

It’s sad. Because the owner doesn’t get their stuff back, you also put a lot of work into it and now probably have more work to get rid of it.

Disposing of the Lost and Found is a critical last step in the process, including responsibly destroying private information (looking at you those credit cards from the last day of the festival, again), reducing waste going into the trash, recovering usable value from the remains.  

Inside Baseball note: all recovered value, monetary and functional, go to charity at Liff.
We think it’s super disingenuous for a Lost and Found company to profit from others’ misfortune, but you can always find that kind of company in the crowd.

In summation, Lost and Found can be a lot of work. You might want to help your customer but just don’t have the resources (time, money, effort, empathy, you name it). So we think that every bit of effort you put in should be effective.

Do you have a different process or opinion on Lost and Found? We’d love to chat, give me a holler:

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