Finding the lost-and-found program to fit your hotel

Atrium Hospitality manages 81 hotels, including the Hilton Long Beach in California. Photo credit: Hilton

Like any other aspect of operations, a hotel’s management team must tailor its lost-and-found program to the size and market of its property. Depending on the type of guests it welcomes—family travelers, for example, are more prone to leaving items than those on business—a property may require a more elaborate setup with specially designed software, larger storage space and shorter windows for guests to claim a lost item.

Lost-and-Found Software

Atrium Hospitality’s hotels uses the lost-and-found software Chargerback to log and track the items its employees find. Should guests learn they lost an item, they can go on to Chargerback’s site and enter a claim. The housekeeping manager, or whoever monitors the program, then receives an alert and can check the described item against those listed in its database of found items.

“You can pull up certain dates and filter through a certain time period and say, ‘OK, was there a red jacket that was lost between June 4th and June 10?’” Atrium Hospitality’s Chief Executive Housekeeper Ken Rosenthal explained. “Instead of having to go through all of June and looking through every little bag, you can pull it up to see you if definitely have it first.”

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Shreyas “JR” Patel, president of Helix Hospitality, said since his company’s hotels are all limited- and select-service, it generally does not end up with a substantial number of lost-and-found items. The management company tried out a few cloud-based lost-and-found management platforms in the past, he said, but they proved to be overkill. Instead, the company’s hotels now attempt to contact guests directly as soon as something is found. Though tracking down a lost item’s owner can be time consuming, Patel said the approach “is the ultimate expression of appreciation—you’re taking care of someone even though they’ve already left. That’s how you create guests for life.”

Storage Space

Every object a hotel holds onto takes up space and the longer it decides to keep these items, the more space it will need to dedicate to lost and found. For Helix Hospitality’s hotels, Patel said even though items are kept for six months, they generally just require a locked cabinet for storage. Atrium, on the other hand, will hold on to normal items for only 30 days and valuables—jewelry, electronics, wallets—for 90 days. Though it holds on to lost items for a significantly shorter time, Rosenthal said they generally require closet-sized spaces for storage.

By comparison, Dave Bareno, senior director of global safety and security at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, said his company’s resorts can take in hundreds of items a day. Consequently, Bareno said these resorts will often use locked rooms or office spaces for storage.

Like Atrium Hospitality, Marriott Vacations Worldwide will keep regular lost items for 30 days. “When I got here, they were keeping the items a lot longer than they are now and it just required too much space,” Bareno said. “The reasoning behind 30 days is if somebody doesn’t know they’re missing something within a month, then I mean we’re not going to hang onto it for three or four months to just wait and see if they ever call us.” The resorts will hold onto high-value items for 60 days, while also proactively trying to contact the guest. Like Atrium Hospitality, Marriott Vacations Worldwide uses Chargerback.

Bareno noted that sometimes guests will leave items simply because they no longer want them. Since they’re staying for a longer period of time, he said families will often buy large water toys for their vacation and then abandon them in the hotel room when they leave. With no way of knowing for sure the guests’ intention, the resort must then use up space holding onto bulky items like boogie boards.

To deal with the space issues, Bareno said these resorts have begun informing guests the hotel will donate the toys to a local charity should they no longer want them. By just letting guests know they have this option, he said the problem has been slowly fixing itself.

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