Digital Lost and Found Log for Hotels, Schools and Airports

Published on:
March 1, 2024
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If you’ve ever left your phone, keys, or wallet somewhere, you know nothing can derail your day like losing something that’s important to you.

Every day, on-the-go people misplace things that end up in the Lost and Found bin at their work, school, or public transit.

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And for travelers, this can be an especially irritating event—having to track down lost items in the airport, at a distant hotel, or in the last Uber they took to make it to a conference. 

The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) estimates that around 90,000 lost items are left behind at security checkpoints each month. That’s over a million lost items a year sitting at TSA checkpoints across the world. Even more daunting are the number of lost items left behind at hotels in the United States alone: an estimated 46 million. And schools? In a survey of over 400 parents, 80% said their children lost items at school the previous year. 

In this article, we’ll discuss why procedures around lost and found items are so important, lost and found best practices, and how you can improve these processes with digital lost and found logs. We’ll be focusing primarily on high areas of lost and found items, such as airports, schools, and hotels, but these tips can be applied to any operation that acquires lost and found goods.  

Free Download: Digital Lost and Found Log

Lost and found is best managed using a digital system that can log where and when items were found, where they are stored, and if they are recovered by the guest. For the best results, try Xenia's Lost and Found feature in the all-in-one facility and staff management app. If you need an excel based version of lost and found management, try our free Google Sheets based log below:

What industries should have a lost and found?

We’ve already mentioned how common it is for hotels, schools, and airports to have a designated lost and found. But other common industries that have lost and found needs include other forms of public transit, convention centers, fitness studios, amusement parks, clubs and associations, and assisted living facilities. Any facility where people regularly congregate could have a need for a lost and found. 

Why are lost and found procedures important for operations management?

While most of the accountability lies on individuals to keep track of their things, there’s a certain level of responsibility that institutions have to help return lost goods to their owners. Customer satisfaction relies on organizations demonstrating care, respect, and support to their patrons, and assisting with misplaced items is a part of that.  

If a guest at a hotel came to the front desk with a complaint or question and the front desk attendant shrugged and told them, “I hope you find the answer,” that guest would probably be rightfully upset. If the guest comes to the front desk inquiring about a missing item, it’s no different. You can’t just say, “I hope you find your lost phone.” If your hotel did this, you’d likely have a litany of negative online reviews about your property, and you’d lose the trust of your guests. Your guest would at the very least expect you to check the room they were in, ask the attending housekeepers, or look in the lost and found. 

When travelers go through transportation security, when guests pay for accommodations, when students and staff walk through the doors of an educational facility, they’re placing not only themselves but their items in the trust of that facility. And when they misplace those items it’s important that the institutions they trusted with their goods show a level of respect by providing some assistance in locating those items. 

But it’s not just a matter of customer satisfaction and respect. If there aren’t lost and found policies in place, it can create employee theft issues, public distrust, and liability and legal compliance problems. For example, constructive bailment applies to goods of intrinsic or perceived value and suggests an involuntary duty that requires hotels to safeguard lost or misplaced items and handle them in accordance with appropriate lost and found protocols. 

If a guest leaves a laptop in their room upon checkout and returns to claim it only to find it’s completely missing with no explanation, the hotel could be liable if they cannot prove that appropriate actions were taken to locate the missing item. And without clearly established standard operating procedures (SOPs) around lost and found goods, it’s hard to prove that your facility is doing everything it can to protect travelers, guests, and students. 

Where should facilities store lost and found items?

Lost and found items should always be stored in a designated, secure location that can be easily accessed by approved members of staff. Make sure all lost and found items are secure, but especially valuable lost and found items such as phones, laptops, or tablets. These kinds of high-value items should be placed in a secure lockbox or safe.

Don’t place the lost and found “out of sight, out of mind” where items can go too long unattended or forgotten. The lost and found needs to be regularly managed just like every other area of your operations. You don’t want missing goods to pile up.

How long should facilities keep lost and found items? 

How long facilities keep lost and found items varies depending on individual policy, but a good general rule of thumb is to keep non-valuable items for at least 90 days. If no one comes to retrieve these items within that 90-day period, they can be discarded or donated. Perishable items such as food can be discarded much more quickly, usually within three days max. 

While operations keep general lost and found goods for around 90 days before disposal, more valuable items are sometimes stored for up to a year. This just depends on your organization's individual policies and storage capacity, but depending on your operation, it’s usually best to store high-value lost and found items for a longer period of time. 

Communication best practices with people who have lost items

When someone has misplaced an item of importance, they can be frazzled, angry, or upset. It’s important to keep in mind that this anxiety isn’t directed at you. Listen with empathy, and whether or not you know the actual value of the item, treat every lost item as important. You never know what kind of value a missing item might hold for your guests. Take every claim seriously and ensure your guest that you’ll do everything you can to help them.

How to create a Lost and Found SOP and Best Practices

Once you’ve designated a location for your lost and found, it’s important to communicate that location with staff and determine any levels of approval that are necessary to access the lost and found. Controlling who’s able to access lost and find items helps reduce the risk of employee theft. From there, you can start to set up a clear process around what happens when a guest or staff member reports a lost item. 

When a missing item is located by staff, we suggest you require information about the item to be logged manually or digitally for tracking before the item is placed in the lost and found. Important tracking information could include:  

  • where the item was found
  • when the item was found
  • who found it
  • a description of the item

Keeping track of this information makes it easier to find the item's owner and return it. It also  helps with sorting and discarding lost and found items over time and ensures items won’t be further misplaced once they’re under your team’s care. 

If a guest, customer, or student reports a missing item, it’s best practice to require that additional information be logged such as: 

  • who reported the item missing
  • who the item belonged to
  • contact information from the owner
  • when they last saw the item
  • where they last saw the item
  • a description of the item 

When a customer, guest, or student reports a missing item that has yet to be found, the first thing to do is to check your lost and found. If it’s not there, it may require some additional detective work. Firstly, it’s important to understand the circumstances of the missing item. A guest misplacing an item requires a different approach than a guest suggesting that their item was stolen. It’s critical to have a plan for either scenario, but in any case your next step will be to do more investigating. 

Once you’ve taken stock of all the important information, you can further involve any team members that might have crossed paths with the customer or guest that misplaced the item. For example, if a guest last saw their missing item in their room, the housekeeper who cleaned that room before checkout might have an idea of where the item is. 

An Example of a Lost and Found SOP 

  1. As soon as a missing item is found, take it to the facility’s dedicated lost and found or deliver it to a staff member with the appropriate level of access to deliver it. 
  2. Make sure that the item is safely stowed and/or locked away. 
  3. Report and log the misplaced item manually or digitally to track item information.
  4. Put each item in an individual plastic bag before storing. 
  5. Valuable items such as phones, wallets, laptops, or tablets must be stored in the secure lockbox and are stored for up to a year.
  6. All other items are stored for 90 days before being discarded. 

Improve efficiency and accessibility with Xenia

Utilizing a digital lost and found tool significantly simplifies lost and found management. Solutions like Xenia provide real-time tracking that allows your team to log information about found items on the go, as soon as they’ve located an item. With Xenia, your team can log lost and found items with just a few taps of their finger on their individual mobile device. Plus, not only can you create clear fields for required item information so your team knows exactly what to log, you can also encourage the attachment of photos and notes for further clarity. 

You’ll be able to easily sort and see how many lost and found items have stacked up and how long each item has been there so you can swiftly determine when it’s time for lost and found items to be discarded. And since Xenia’s messaging features allow everyone on your team to connect instantly via direct message, group chats, and public announcements you can immediately disperse information about missing items across your facility to help track items down more quickly. 

For example, if a housekeeper at a hotel finds a wallet in a room while they’re cleaning it to prepare it for the next guest, they could immediately log the wallet into Xenia’s lost and found system and include a photo before they even finish cleaning the room. Then, if the guest shows up at the check-in counter looking for their wallet, it’s easy for the front desk team to search in Xenia and immediately track it down without any unnecessary and time-consuming back and forth. The wallet might be returned before it ever ends up in the physical lost and found! 

And Xenia has lots of other flexible, user-friendly features for operations optimization, too. It’s an all-in-one solution for facility and operations management that works for any use case, in any industry. To learn more about what Xenia can do for you, visit our website or book a free product demo any time. Our team is ready to help you find a solution to streamline everything from your lost and found logs to your facility asset tracking and beyond! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question? Find our FAQs here. If your question hasn't been answered here, contact us.

What types of facilities commonly need a lost and found system?

Common facilities that require a lost and found system include hotels, schools, airports, public transit systems, convention centers, fitness studios, amusement parks, clubs, associations, and assisted living facilities.

Essentially, any place where people congregate regularly may need a system to manage lost and found items.

Why is it important for facilities to have a clear lost and found procedure?

Having a clear lost and found procedure is crucial for several reasons: it enhances customer satisfaction by showing care and support for patrons who have lost items; it prevents employee theft and public distrust; and it addresses liability and legal compliance issues.

Moreover, a clear procedure helps institutions demonstrate responsibility and respect for the personal belongings of their guests or clients.

How long should facilities keep lost and found items?

General policy for non-valuable lost and found items is to keep them for at least 90 days before disposal or donation if unclaimed.

Perishable items should be discarded within a few days. Valuable items, such as electronics, may be kept for up to a year, depending on the facility's policy and storage capacity.

What are the best practices for communicating with individuals who have lost items?

When communicating with individuals who have lost items, it's important to listen empathetically and treat every lost item as important, regardless of its actual value.

Facilities should take every claim seriously and assure the individual that they will do everything possible to assist in locating the item.

On top of that, clear communication and a respectful approach are key to maintaining trust and satisfaction.