Hotel Management first profiled Chargerback in 2016, when the company was one of the few lost-and-found technology companies available. Today, there’s more competition—and the team has responded with more innovation. Brian Colodny, president and CFO at Chargerback, estimated that in 2016, Chargerback had maybe one patent that had been issued by the United States Patent Office. “We now have 12 patents issued,” he said.
Since 2016, Chargerback has partnered with both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland as well as “basically every single major resort on the Las Vegas Strip,” Brian said. “The Disney group, as you know, is the ultimate in customer guest service, and they gave us so many ideas of things they'd like added to the product—which we added.” The five-star resorts in Las Vegas also provided suggestions, and the product grew to meet their needs. “Ninety-nine percent of what we've done to improve the product over the last six years is because of suggestions from partners that just made sense,” he said. “They would help everybody—whether it's a 5,000 room hotel like the MGM Grand or it's 100-room Quality Inn in Abilene, Texas. The product works and adjusts for the size of the hotel.” One of Chargerback’s smallest clients is a bed-and-breakfast with a single room available for guests, he noted, and the platform is designed for hoteliers with a wide range of tech savvy.
One of the biggest developments in the last six years has been the expansion of mobile functionality. “We developed the mobile feature for on-the-go found item reporting,” said Dallas Colodny, marketing manager at Chargerback. New image recognition technology lets hotel team members aim their cameras at found items and get an instant identification of what the item is. The user can then confirm the color and other specific details so that the guest can quickly determine if the item is in fact theirs. “We have over 450 trained items in the image-recognition that are specific to what we know are the typical items that are found by hotels,” Brian said. “We built our product for image recognition with lost-and-found in mind.” Staff members can list multiple items in a report, Brian added, noting that the image recognition is meant to speed up the process and reduce the amount of time team members spend recording what they have found in any given room.
Team members can now use the app on their mobile phones (whether their own or provided by the hotels) to record their inspection of a room, Brian said, to make sure the entire lost-and-found process is recorded and any damage to items is not blamed on the room attendants. (The feature works even if the mobile device is not connected to a Wi-Fi signal.
Chargerback’s form for registering lost items has also been optimized for mobile so that guests can start the reunion process as soon as they notice an item is missing. Michael McLaughlin, co-founder and CMO at Chargerback, estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of the reports are now from the mobile version of the form.
Last year, Chargerback updated its software to let Apple users upload AirTag item location information from the Find My app to make it easier for partners to locate and return lost items to their owners. (Similar apps for Samsung phones also work with the upgrades.) The feature is especially helpful in larger properties that are spread out over acres, Dallas said, noting that GPS tracking is not as helpful in a narrow, high-rise building. “The larger the hotel entity, the more value that they get out of it, because there [are] specific areas within the property that will show up distinctly,” McLaughlin said.
Other developments from recent years include updated security features that keep up with laws from CCPA and the FCC, Dallas said. Brian noted a new tool on the company’s website that lists privacy rules from a number of states and territories so that users can “see what rules they have to follow for retaining and safeguarding items that they find.”
Chargerback’s most recent addition is Gitback, a platform that lets hotel guests ship their luggage home rather than check it for the flight home.
Clicking with Clients
Prior to the pandemic, Chargerback was already meeting with clients remotely. “We’re located in Carson City, Nev. We have partners all across North America and a few dotted around the world,” Dallas said. Even with all those partners, it’s hard for team members to get to Dallas on a Wednesday, over to Kansas City, Kan., the next day and then down to Orlando. Still, he acknowledged, in-person meetings are hard to top. “When it's, you know, requested [or] appropriate, we have absolutely still continued in-person meetings with proper protocols and proper safety precautions in place.” Brian said that the company will do on-site training as needed, and prefers to meet in person with management companies with a number of properties in their portfolio. “Training only takes an hour, an hour and a half, depending upon the size and the depth that they want,” Brian said.
Logic in Logistics
Twelve of Chargerback’s 14 full-time team members are in Carson City, Nev., but many worked from home during the pandemic. Since infection numbers have fallen, many workers are coming back to the office. “We obviously abided by the mask mandates that were put in place by the various governmental entities,” Brian said. “But collaboration in person is very important, and the next best thing is meeting online. So we did what we had to do, and right now everybody's back in.” McLaughlin believes that the willingness of companies to adapt to virtual meetings is one of the few positives coming out of the pandemic.