Innovations That Matter

Lost and found in the 21st century

Work & Lifestyle

Tagging and tracking services for consumers make it easy (and compelling!) for Good Samaritans, lost & found personnel and police departments to return lost or stolen items to their rightful owners.

The more ‘stuff’ consumers own, the more they’re prone to lose. Lose as in dislocate that is. Think mobile phones, keys, cameras, PDAs, laptops, binoculars, backpacks, passports, briefcases, wallets and purses, golf clubs, power tools, textbooks… you get the picture. But every consumer’s loss can be an entrepreneur’s gain, as proven by an interesting emerging business sector: tech-savvy lost and found services. These services let consumers label their valuables with clearly marked tags informing the finder how to return the item to the owner, and how to get rewarded for his or her help. By phone, via email or any other means available. A good example is US-based StuffBak, who has been in this space for a few years now: finders of StuffBak-labeled items can call a toll-free number or consult the StuffBak website. Finders can then drop off the item at the nearest UPS Store (formerly Mail Boxes, Etc.) or arrange for Airborne Express to pick it up directly. Owners of lost items are immediately notified when their item has been reported found. StuffBak offers all finders a basic reward of a USD 20 gift of STUFFBAK ID labels. Customers may also choose to offer a cash reward, this could be a Blanket Cash Reward, which gets paid when ANY of their labeled items are returned or a Per Item Custom Reward, which entails a specific cash reward for any individual item after customers have reported that item lost. StuffBak customers are only charged: • When they purchase labels. Label packs range from US$9.95 to US$39.95 • If lost property is returned. Customers pay a USD 14.95 transaction fee plus shipping charges • If they request payment of an extra cash reward to the finder Stuffbak claims that to date, 90% of items reported lost have been returned to owners. Stuffbak is not the only company operating in this fast growing field: for more info and inspiration, check out Canadian TrackitBack and Australian Postbak.


One of those peace-of-mind ideas that consumers and corporate clients around the world are willing to pay good money for, the StuffBaks of this world are on to something. Consumers’ lives are certainly not showing any signs of slowing down, and there’s an equally strong trend towards individuals being more interested in controlling, storing, and monitoring their possessions. The latter is helped by the perception of value shifting towards the intangible (try to put a number on the value of numbers stored on a mobile phone, or the thousands of files, messages, or music collections residing on laptops). So recovery in every imaginable shape and form will continue to be a booming business.Last but not least, with consumers traveling like there is no tomorrow, who will set up the first truly global StuffBak? With multi-lingual labels, websites, and call agents? We’re sure concierge services, express delivery firms, manufacturers of electronic devices and insurance companies would gladly partner, if not take a stake straight away!


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