The lost and found departments at most hotels can easily be compared to a piled-up purgatory, where left-behind phone chargers, keys, and jewelry await a reunion with their owners. And since the lost and found process is often such a hassle, most of those items continue to take up space in the nooks and crannies of hotels until they are deposited into a landfill. But a new company is setting out to reinvent how hotels handle lost and found procedures and help guests reunite with their personal possessions in an efficient and timely manner.
Chargerback, which takes its name from the number one item left behind in hotel rooms, is a software solution that is designed to streamline how hotels file, find, and return lost items to guests. Brian Colodny, president of the company, says the idea came to him after he left a phone charger in a hotel room and had a difficult time trying to locate it once he returned home. “I called up the hotel, and they kind of laughed at me,” Colodny says. “It was upsetting, because it was for a smartphone and retailed for around $60.”
Colodny bought a new phone charger and didn’t give it much thought, but after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the staggering number of items that go missing in hotels each year, Colodny decided to come up with a way to fix the age-old problem.
A February 2013 survey conducted by Wakefield Research shows that almost half (43 percent) of respondents who have lost an item in a hotel didn’t take steps to retrieve it because it was too much hassle, required too much time, or the process wasn’t readily apparent.
“Our goals were twofold,” Colodny says. “One was to solve the frustration that guests have when they leave something behind. But we also wanted to make it easier for the hotel to keep track of their lost items and to move them off of the archaic system that many use.”
Chargerback is a free service for hotels. The system allows hotel staff members to input item information—where it was found, when it was found, a detailed description, etc.—into an easy-to-use online system. The company then builds out an iframe for properties to use on their branded websites where guests can report a lost item directly to the hotel using a form. Once the report is filed, the lost and found manager at a hotel can open the report and track the lost item by keywords, location, and description. Once the item is matched, the software will automatically send the guest an email explaining that the item was found and detailing the shipping cost for the item’s return. The guest then has the option to securely enter his or her credit card information for the shipping, and the lost item will be on its way back to its owner.
For Jean-Pierre Patay, hotel director at the 1,710-room Silver Legacy Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev., implementing Chargerback was a no-brainer. “Like most properties, we did the best that we could with what we had,” he says. “We stored the lost and found items in all of the unused nooks and closets, and there was a tired and overworked individual that was tasked with managing those items. Chargerback has created a solution for effectively managing lost and found.”
Patay says that the system has helped the resort dramatically reduce the number of items stocked in its lost and found department. He explains that it has also helped with satisfaction scores, since guests are no longer bounced from department to department, or left leaving voice messages on an answering machine and hoping for a call back.
Colodny hopes hotels will begin to implement the system as a way to better manage their lost and found inventory. He also says that Chargerback will shortly expand and offer its service to other sectors of the hospitality industry including airlines, rental cars, entertainment venues, and restaurants.
“We think this represents a paradigm shift in how people get their items back,” Colodny says. “We want to brand Chargerback as the system for lost and found.”