Saturday, April 29, 2017

What are the oddest objects hotel staff have found left behind by guests?

This is a tricky question. In addition to the usual-usual - wallets (not a frequent occurrence because the guest needs his credit cards to check out, but it still sometimes happens, sometimes with a few hundred in cash inside), small jewelry items (usually, for some strange reason, a single earring, rarely both of a pair . . .), cell phones, cell phone chargers especially (I've said before, some guests are mutant aliens who eat TV remotes, but just as many try to make up for it just a little by leaving a cell phone charger behind), loose articles of clothing, small electronic items like an MP3 player, occasional loose food items (maybe a bottle of water or soda), toys (usually a stuffed animal, baby doll or teddy bear) - we're always finding weird things guests left behind . . .

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  • A guest's entire baggage - not quite, but almost, a complete wardrobe. Where it gets really odd is when they never call to reclaim it. It's like the guy walked out with the clothes on his back, and never looked back. You'd think we should consider filing a missing persons report, but we lack either standing or sufficient reason to believe something bad actually happened to him.
  • A refrigerator full of food. Or beer. Or bottles of liquor, sometimes unopened.

  • Medical appliances - the occasional oxygen bottle and, once, a CPAP machine (Continuous positive airway pressure - one of my family uses one of those, so I have a pretty good idea how much they cost . . . and they can only be had by prescription, which requires a low-to-mid four figure overnight visit for a sleep study . . .)
  • In cheaper properties, drugs - and enough of them to have a street value, or to add to your stash if you use drugs - out in plain view, complete with paraphernalia. (In one location, years ago, I checked in a guest who came right back and demanded a refund after finding a used needle in her nightstand. In cheaper places that aren't too fussy who they rent to, used needles and other paraphernalia being found in rooms by housekeepers, and sometimes missed, are a not-uncommon occurrence. A near-tragedy occurred recently at a Motel 6 this past year because of just such a thing: a used syringe was in the floor under the bed, and as the next guests in that room were a family, a small child went crawling around, found it the hard way, and had to be taken to the hospital . . . )


  • Unopened packs of condoms, occasionally lingerie, and the occasional sex toy (on one occasion, an inflatable doll . . .)
What makes this question tricky is its similarity to a discussion I got into last month about guests trashing rooms or leaving them unusually messy or filthy: very few things stick out as particularly memorable. Even things that do, by contrast to the usual-usual, seem 'bound to happen sooner or later' unremarkable. An odd item left in a room would have to be pretty bizarre or surreal in order to rate even mentioning, never mind making for much of a war story. In most cases - except for the CPAP (unless you or someone close to you suffers from sleep apnea, who knows? Who cares? Who can even identify the device?) and rubber 'love doll', and I'm not so sure about the inflatable doll - if someone on the staff brings it up or mentions it, there'll be some more experienced person on the staff who's seen it before, more than once.

Most likely items to be reclaimed at lost and found: high value items, obviously; and anything with an obvious sentimental value (we rarely get a call back about, say a shirt, but someone will go into a panic over a ball cap with a certain logo on it . . .) If it's one of those, we'll make some effort to contact the guest (individual hotel policies on this vary). In any event, we bag it, tag it and hold it for thirty days (unless it's obviously inappropriate to do so, such as with perishable food or dirty underwear). After that, the room attendant who found it gets to play finders-keepers with it if she wants.

We generally request that the guest pay for the shipping. (Occasional exception: if it costs next to nothing to ship, and it's clearly a high-value item to an important regular customer like a checkbook or piece of jewelry, or if it's something like a doll or bear that means the world to some small child, but might not be considered worth the cost of shipping by the parent: usually, we'll ship that without being asked . . .)

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