Dealing with lost and found
A hotel should have a clear policy as to what it intends to do with any property that has been forgotten by guests. There should be a lost and found department that specifically deals with this matter. How the hotel operates this part will vary from place to place, but generally speaking there are certain basic steps that should be taken no matter where you are working.
The actual discovery of items left behind will be made by the housekeeping staff, so it is important that they are made aware of what is expected from them in these circumstances.
Within the hotel, there should be one designated location where any items that are lost and then found can be taken so that they can then be catalogued. It also means that the individual that is in charge of this department can then work on trying to reunite the owner with their belongings if this is at all possible.
The main thing with this location is that it must be secured at all times, and not just anybody is able to access it. It is generally accepted that only the member of staff that has being designated this role should have access along with the hotel manager.
It is extremely important that there is a register available where all of the details of the different items are entered to create a database of what is in this location.
The details will often tend to include information about the object, the room number, the name of the guest that had booked into that room, and the member of staff that found it and the date when it was entered into the register.
Every single item that is left behind should be entered in this register no matter its size or value.
After completing the register, the item should be placed in a clear plastic bag containing the reference number from the register. It will also often be the case that the hotel will have some kind of storing system that puts things in order so that they can easily be located should the owner be reunited with their item. No lost and found room should be haphazard and, as the hotel manager, it is your responsibility to make sure that this is not the case.
If the item is jewelry, money, antiques, or anything else that is valuable, then it should be safely stored in a locker that is then locked. It should not be left out on its own or part of the rest of the lost items because of their monetary value. Every step has to be taken to make sure that they can then be easily located should they be reunited with their owner.
Thanks to technology, and the details that are usually obtained at the time of the booking or the checking in procedure, it will often be the case that a guest will have supplied an email address where they can be contacted. This is an important step for reuniting the items with their rightful owner as there should be an agreed email that can be sent out to the guest to inform them of the item that has been left behind.
If a hotel guest calls in order to discover if their items have been recovered, then the only person that should be left to deal with this call should be the property manager that is in charge of the lost and found department.
Only that individual should access the register and deal with the guest in order to determine if they have the item in question and how to then proceed. No other staff member, with the exception of the hotel manager, should be left to deal with this particular service.
If the guest calls, then they should be passed to the relevant member of staff immediately so they can then be dealt with accordingly.
Finally, we need to mention the length of time that items are kept as it is impossible to hold every single item that has ever been left in a hotel room.
The exact time schedule may very well vary between hotels, but generally speaking the items will be split into three different categories: Perishable, non-valuable, and valuable.
With perishable items, then the maximum time that they are kept before being disposed of is three days, although this can vary slightly depending on what the item actually is. However, the register should state what the item is and also why it was destroyed after this period of time so that the guest can be informed of this should they contact the hotel to discover if it has been handed in.
With non-valuable items, then it is commonplace for them to be held in the lost and found section for anywhere between three and six months. However, if the owner has not been found or has not called the hotel by the point of this allotted time expiring, then it is up to the hotel itself to determine what then happens. For some, the member of staff that found it is offered the chance of having it, or some hotels will give the item to charity in order to help raise funds.
Finally, valuable items have to be handled differently. These items tend to be kept under lock and key for anywhere between six and twelve months, although this does vary from hotel to hotel. However, if the owner has not been contacted by the end of this time, then it is commonplace for the item to be put to auction, although there are some hotels that may prefer to work an alternative method.
Christos Pashiardis – Managing Partner – Consultant