Have you ever visited TransLink’s Lost Property Office before? I hadn’t until recently. Jhen has written about the office and what they do before, but I wanted to see the office for myself and figured it would be worth a check in.
My first reaction when I was brought behind the counter was how organized it is in there. Gloves collected from bus depots, SkyTrain, and SeaBus come in daily and are divided between matching pairs and singles. Drawers full of cell phones and chargers are tagged with the time and place they were found and any other info that can connect them to their rightful owner.
Considering the small area the staff have to store bikes, cell phones, umbrellas, books, medication, back packs, strollers, tools and way too many other random and odd items to mention, keeping them well organized is the only way to keep track of them all!
And because of the volume of lost items and the limited space to store everything, rules have been created for how long we hold onto items:
- Wallets and other valuables are held for 30 days
- The following items are held for 10 days: Binders, books, gloves, hats, jackets, pants, papers, posters, scarves, shirts, shoes
- The following items are held for 14 days: Bikes, used bags
- Items like Care Cards and birth certificates are sent back to their government agencies, but the rest is donated to charity.
- Food containers/drink containers are held for just a few days
- Perishable items are not retained
So, just how many items are left behind? And what are the most popular lost items on transit? Customer Information Supervisor Michelle Poole answered a few of our questions:
1. How many lost items have we collected so far in 2012?
30,285 items have been logged into our database (over 5000 umbrellas are also turned in every year, but these are not logged into the database).
2. How many lost items did we collect in 2011?
36,816 items (excluding umbrellas).
3. How many items do you reunite with their owners every year?
Last year, 28.32% of items were reunited with their owners. So far this year, 29.98% of items have been returned to their owners.
4. What are the most common items that end up in Lost Property?
Definitely umbrellas would be most common, but a lot of cellular phones as well.
5. What’s the best course of action for someone to take once they know they have lost something on transit?
Customers can call us during our business hours (Monday-Friday from 8:30am-5:00pm). It is best to ensure they have as much detail as possible including date/time the item was lost, the route the item was lost on, the description of the item lost as well as all their contact information. Alternatively, we have an online form that can be completed at anytime that will send a report directly to our office. It can take up to 2 business days for items to arrive in the Lost Property office, and we are in receipt of bikes once a week on Thursdays. (The Lost Property Office handles over 4000 calls from customers each month and nearly 3000 walk-in customers)
6. Are there any other stories from lost property that you would like to share?
Our Workleader this year went to great lengths to try and locate the owner of a case for glasses with $400 cash inside. There was no identification and only a bank slip with the cash that was inside. Workleader Barb Szumilak went to a branch of the bank and explained the situation. They explained that they could see what they could do, but they would not be able to provide us with customer information. They were, however, able to make contact with the gentleman who owned the bank account, and he was able to retrieve his money and case from our office.
One other interesting fact I discovered on my visit is that nearly 100% of all the unclaimed items turned into the Lost Property Office are donated to charity! United Way and Toys for Tots are just two charities who receive items regularly.
I’d like to express my thanks to Michelle, Barb and everyone else at Lost Property for letting me snoop around their office. If you have a lost item, I encourage you to fill out an online form, give Lost Property a call at 604-953-3334, or stop by the office at Stadium SkyTrain Station, 590 Beatty St, Vancouver, Monday to Friday 8:30 am-5:00pm.