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Catching up with the Lost Property Office

Missing your favourite megaphone? No worries, the Lost Property Office has it!

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.

The office can be a busy place.

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.

Backpack season starts after school begins.

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 will be retained for a few days to a month, depending on the type of item.
  • 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
  • Perishable items and food/drink containers may not be retained or only held for a couple of days.

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.

 

 


15 Comments

  • By Sheba, October 24, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    Even though it was over 10 years ago, I can remember this story very clearly. I had just walked into the kitchen when the phone rang, and it was lost property. One of my roommates was a student at the time and had a habit of leaving stuff on transit. This time it was a small purse with her ID (among other things) inside it.

    So I hopped on the Skytrain and went to the lost property office. I could describe her purse and take a pretty good guess what was inside it, plus list off her full name, address, phone number and date of birth. So I got to sign for and pick it up.

    Seeing as she was always riding the same bus back and forth to classes, the driver didn’t check her pass when she got on the bus to come home. She didn’t know she’d lost her purse until she got home and I gave it back to her! We had a good laugh over that one.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, October 24, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    Sheba: I love that story! As a formerly forgetful person (fingers crossed), I really have to give thanks to people like yourself who look out for others. Nice!

  • By Kyle, October 24, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

    Does lost property donate Lost unclaimed bus passes to charity? :) Or Do Lost Bus passes get counted in the “revenue” side of the accounting column, and get deducted from the fare evasion losses?

    Is it not possible for TL to set up a thrift store at Stadium to Satisfy the Audit? (Even the few Thousands of dollars generated would be one extra bus route) I Joking. :)

  • By Sheba, October 24, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    Robert, I also remember laughing when I heard it was transit lost property and asking if we could make an account for her. At the time she could get very absent minded.

    We also used to work part time at the same place and I used to get a list of her shifts when I’d get mine and post her list on the fridge where she’d see it. Otherwise she’d forget all about it and get crap from work for not picking it up.

  • By Dave 2, October 24, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

    >If you have a lost item, I encourage you to fill out an online form

    I left an umbrella on a #210 bus on May 2 1986, but the online form doesn’t allow a date that old :)

  • By Joe, October 25, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    My friend engages in the umbrella exchange program. Whenever she forgets one on the bus, she keeps the next one she finds on the bus.

  • By Eugene Wong, October 25, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

    @ Sheba

    Thanks for your stories!

    @ Joe

    That’s hilarious. I think that I actually might morally support that, if the umbrella is not too expensive.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, October 26, 2012 @ 8:52 am

    Kyle: I’ve asked and no, we don’t donate the unclaimed bus passes to charity. Unfortunately unless customers remember to sign and provide a phone number on the back of media, we cannot often match them back up. At present time all sales of fare media (whether it is a monthly pass or tickets) are considered revenue as the transfer of monies takes place at the point of sale. Also, any monies collected from the sale of unclaimed items are given to the United Way, and new toys donated to Toys for Tots.

    As for a thrift shop, it’s a great idea, but rather beyond our abilities! The considerations involved in launching and running a store include acquiring enough retail space to display items, staffing, reconciliation processes etc. Hope this helps!

  • By Eugene Wong, October 26, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    A thrift shop supporting transit is a great idea. There are thrift shops that support hospitals and fire departments, so the idea has been tried and is successful. This would be a great way for volunteers to support transit.

    To know all the specifics of what we need to do, such as the things that Jhenifer listed, we could look at the other thrift shops.

    For goodness sake, please make the thrift shop transit accessible!

  • By Andy (TransLink), October 31, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    Good story Robert. There is a typo though:

    “gentleman who owed the bank account”
    wouldn’t it be “gentleman who owned the bank account”?

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, November 1, 2012 @ 8:38 am

    Whoops, my bad. It’s mean fixed. Thanks!

  • By Ric, November 6, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    What happens to items such as bus passes, iPods, cell phones, wallets and other valuables that no one ever claims?

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  1. The Buzzer blog » The November 2012 Buzzer is on the system — November 5, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

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