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Lost and Found at Disney

Discussion in 'WDW Parks General Discussion' started by Nut4Disney, Dec 6, 2002.

  1. Nut4Disney

    Nut4Disney New Member

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    Here is an article about the unusual items that are lost at Disney World daily, and what happens to them.



    The lost world

    By Linda Shrieves | Sentinel Staff Writer
    Posted December 4, 2002



    It has to be the glass eye.

    Or maybe the color television set.

    Or the child's potty trainer.

    It's hard to say exactly what might win the title of Strangest Thing a Tourist Has Ever Lost at Disney World.

    But every day brings a quirky combination of the mundane and insane at Walt Disney World's lost and found department, a 15-by-50 foot room that might be more appropriately named the Land of the Forgotten Stuff.

    In Central Florida, where America loves to vacation, Americans lose an incredible amount of stuff -- at Disney, at Universal, at the hotels, at the airport. And much of it they never bother to claim.

    It's slow season now, a time when these places get a break from the tsunami of gadgets and geegaws that have gone missing.

    But the tales of weird items that have been found continue to pile up unabated year-round.

    In a room that smells vaguely of old sneakers and wet T-shirts, a team of four Disney workers carefully catalogs the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on the shores of Splash Mountain, the sidewalks of Epcot or the foothills of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

    It's a relentless task.

    Each morning, a truck arrives at the Lost & Found storeroom outside the Magic Kingdom, bearing the detritus collected the day before.

    On a winter day at Disney, the lost-and-found truck dumps only 400 to 500 items a day. In summer, when tourists pack the theme parks, the staff wades through a jumble of more than 1,000 articles daily.

    To make sense of the mound of misplaced things, employees sort the most common items by description -- heaps of tortoise-shell glasses, black sunglasses, wire sunglasses and assorted sunglasses -- and mark the boxes with the date they were lost. Each day produces a box of lost red hats, along with separate boxes of blue hats, brown hats, straw hats and visors.

    Baby strollers, from cheap umbrella strollers to expensive jogging strollers, are one of the most commonly lost items. Cell phones, once exotic and rare, are shooting into the top 10 list. Cameras, both expensive and disposable, also pile up, along with another popular gadget of late -- two-way radios.

    Yet every day brings a laugh to Kim Lauver, a "Disney operations hostess," and her crew. Recently, an electric razor appeared in their daily stash, leading the staff to wonder who would shave at a theme park. Once, they discovered a full-size color television in the parking lot. And there's the never-ending parade of crutches, wheelchairs and canes left behind.

    "We don't know how these people get home," says Lauver, shaking her head.

    Together, Lauver and her crew have seen everything -- from a glass eye that popped out of a tourist's head on Space Mountain (and the man who later showed up to claim it) to toupees that routinely fly off men's heads on Splash Mountain, then swish and squish through the water system before an employee retrieves them.

    "They're pretty nasty by the time they make it here," says Lauver.

    And then there are the prosthetic arms and legs.

    "Oh, we get body parts all the time," Lauver says. The limbs are frequently jolted loose by amusement park rides. But unlike sunglasses and hats, body parts usually are claimed by their owners.

    Shocking the lost-and-found crew at Disney is a lot like shocking the makers of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    Not gonna happen.

    "When you're around it all the time," says Lauver, with a shrug, "nothing's strange."

    Detective work

    At Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, the lost and found department is smaller and noticeably less odorous. One reason: Employees toss out anything that's wet.

    "If it's slimy, it's not coming in here," says Jeff Polk, Universal's park operations director. "We figured it wasn't good for employees' health."

    It's also noticeably less busy. While Disney World retrieves more than 100,000 lost items during the summer, Universal Studios ends up with about 20,000 items at its park each year.

    Chalk that up to visitors with older children, Polk says.

    Sunglasses top the list of items collected, followed by hats and cell phones. Shoes and keys show up periodically underneath the roller coasters.

    An occasional Spiderman doll gets turned in -- remnants of a forgetful family -- but the lineup is pretty standard.

    Except for the dentures.

    "You'd be surprised how many dentures we get," says Trisha Engler, assistant director of park operations. "Sometimes they take them out while they're eating, leave them on the table at a restaurant -- and we end up with them in here."

    Like detectives, the lost and found crew members at parks diligently try to find the owners of the merchandise.

    If the clothing or camera or stroller has a name and address on it, the theme parks mail the item back to the owners, free of charge.

    If a wheelchair is rented, they call the rental company. If a cell phone's batteries are still working, they check the phone's internal listings and leave a message with Dad or Grandma.

    "We try to find the owners any way we can," Polk says. "We've tracked down kids who've lost autograph books by looking up their Girl Scout troop. We've had doctors who've lost their Palm Pilots and we've overnighted them back to them."

    But it's not easy being a lost-and-found detective in an era of increasing privacy concerns. Years ago, staffers could track down someone who had lost bags of merchandise by checking for a credit card number on a receipt. No longer. Now, they just hold on to the bags of brand new dolls and T-shirts and hope the owners show up to claim them

    Throwaway society

    In Central Florida's theme parks, only 25 percent of the found items are claimed.

    That's a testament to the affluence of American society, says Betsy Taylor, president of the Center for a New American Dream in Takoma Park, Md.

    "There's this throwaway mentality, that it's easier to go get another camera than to try and track down one you've lost," says Taylor. "There's also a shortage of time. People who go to Disney World are only there for a few days, and there's so much to do."

    The state prescribes a timetable for how long the parks must hold on to missing items. Valuable items, such as jewelry and watches, must be held for 90 days, while the generic junk stays for 30 days.

    After one month, the theme parks divide the bounty into two categories: Charities generally pick up the wheelchairs, canes, crutches, strollers and eyeglasses, as well as brand-new stuffed animals. The rest of the stuff heads for an employee sale, the equivalent of a gigantic yard sale for theme-park employees. At Disney, because so much is lost there, the property department conducts a never-ending yard sale, with new items showing up daily, spread out on tables in employee break areas. Proceeds from those sales go to Disney charities.

    At Universal, the remaining stuff goes on the block at a gigantic employee yard sale held twice a year -- a big event for the workers.

    "We had one employee who bought 50 pairs of sunglasses for five dollars," says Trisha Engler at Universal. "She wore a different pair of sunglasses every day for several months."

    At hotels, wads of cash

    While theme parks collect hats and clothing and strollers, airports and hotels rake in other kinds of valuables.

    At hotels that cater to families with children, teddy bears and children's favorite blankies lead the list of missing items.

    "We have a huge room full of lost stuff, " says Rebecca Hernandez with Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Lake Buena Vista.

    As the hotel's marketing and public relations staffer, Hernandez frequently handles telephone calls from distraught parents desperately searching for their child's teddy bear.

    But customers, not the hotel, pick up the mailing fee.

    "People in the United States usually say, 'Oh, just send it regular mail,' " says Hernandez. "But if they're from overseas, they want it overnighted."

    Nobody balks about paying international prices?

    "Oh, no," she says, laughing. "They'll pay it."

    Business and convention travelers, on the other hand, don't leave behind their favorite blankies, but cell-phone chargers, prescription glasses, car keys and, yes, nightgowns and robes left on the hook behind the hotel door.

    "The No. 1 item left behind is the cell-phone charger," says Lori Babb of the Renaissance Orlando Resort. "We probably ship out five or six cell-phone chargers every day."

    But a surprising number of people leave the hotel -- and forget large amounts of cash or paperwork in the hotel safe.

    "We get a lot of calls from the airport, when people realize they can't pay for their ticket or they don't have their passport," Babb says.

    The hotel quickly dispatches a bellman to the airport with their valuables.

    Yet at the airport, travelers lose still other items -- most frequently, cell phones and laptop computers, says Chris Camerino, who oversees the airport's passenger terminal operations.

    If the phone or computer's batteries are still working, the airport's lost-and-found crew can usually find the owner -- which is why the airport succeeds in returning half of the lost items to their owners.

    Still, there's no way to find the owners of some things -- like the two trees wrapped in plastic that a worker recently discovered in a terminal. Or the airport staff favorite: a pair of handcuffs that was never claimed.

    Widespread honesty

    In the gargantuan complex of hotels and shops and parks that make up Disney World, the company operates 23 lost and found offices.

    But the bulk of the action -- and the most unusual discoveries -- occur in Lauver's jurisdiction, the four theme parks and their parking lots.

    And what tourists leave behind in a parking lot is often as astounding as what they lose inside the parks.

    There's that full-size television. ("We think it came out of a camper that was in the parking lot," says Lauver.) Barbecue grills. A tire. And more wheelchairs.

    Yet amid the mountains of debris that pile up each day in the lost and found departments, there's one thing that raises the eyebrow of even the blasé lost-and-found staffers.

    Wads of cash.

    Three years ago, a man lost a wallet with $10,000 cash inside and no identification. To his amazement, someone turned it in -- with all the money intact.

    One particular tale of lost lucre still amazes them. Several years ago, a wallet turned up with $8,000 cash inside -- and no one ever showed up to retrieve it. With no identification and no way to find the owner, Disney followed the law: After one year, it turned the money over to the state of Florida. The state, in turn, put the money in an unclaimed property fund, which is given to the state school system.

    But what's most surprising at the lost and found departments isn't the odd stuff that shows up each day. What's truly surprising is how honest people are. In a city where many people still believe in Disney's famous "pixie dust," chances are good that if a visitor lost a wallet or a camcorder or a prosthetic leg, someone would turn it in -- rather than steal it.

    "People may find it hard to believe," says Lauver, "but here, you just might get it back."

    Linda Shrieves can be reached at lshrieves@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5433.


    Copyright © 2002, Orlando Sentinel
  2. mkt

    mkt Awesome

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    About 4 years ago I couldn't find my car keys....


    to my dad's brand new Benz (ahhhhh!)


    I just waited a few hours, called the MK lost and found, and they were there. I got lucky, because all of the car info was on the keychain (just got it back from detailing, so the car description and plate number were written on a cardboard keychain).


    I got way too lucky
  3. Maria

    Maria New Member

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    While I was working at Disney, I lost a pair of Guess sunglasses. I went to L&F and they showed me the drawers of the day... I could have picked any pair and claim them as mine, but my conscience didn´t let me. I walked out without any glasses because mine weren´t there.

    On a side note... those glasses werent meant to be mine... I got the same model again, and lost them in the Florida Mall. After that, I bought a cheapo pair at the Mexican pavillion and those lasted until I got back home! :rolleyes:
  4. SpongeScott

    SpongeScott Well-Known Member

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    great article--thanks for sharing.

    Way back in the 70's, I lost a roll of film on my camera on Space Mountain. I reported it and Disney mailed it back to me.
  5. Worldphile

    Worldphile New Member

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    WDW Lost and Found is absolutely amazing. My wife dropped our camera case one year in the parks. So we went the next day to central Lost and Found by the MK kennels looking for our black camera case. Holy Cow!:eek: :eek:

    The CM pulled out a huge box of just black camera cases. And that was only from the past week or so. He said if we couldn't find ours, we should pick one that would fit. He said 95% of the stuff like that that they get is never claimed.
  6. FLcastmember

    FLcastmember New Member

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    At BTMRR, after we shot the ride down for the night, we send out to ""track walkers" one in each direction, just to get the L+F out on the ride. Some days we Fill a trashbag with stuff from just one day. Everynight, it is taken to CityHall.
    At Splash, most of it gets destroyed by the pumps and filters.

    You lost a hat into the Thunder track, good chance of getting it back
    You lost a hat into the Splash flume, no way your getting it back
  7. tiggerlover1971

    tiggerlover1971 New Member

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    Thats so funny that this thread should be here on the way home from louisiana ( went to visit family for a week ) we stopped at epcot and i lost my umbrella and yesterday it came in the mail . wow was i shocked i thought it was gone for good but i had asked at guest relations and had made a report and i guess they found it and sent it to me after all
  8. Monorail Lime

    Monorail Lime Well-Known Member

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    When I was at WDW on the college program I lost my wallet in one of the parks but I thought I lost it at the Wal Mart. Since a return to Wal Mart came up with nothing I thought it was gone for good.

    It had actually been given to WDW lost and found but I never checked there. My cast member ID wasn't in it (I keep it seperate since I need it in a hurry at the time clock) so after a week or so they mailed it to the Texas address on my driver's license! My parents had to mail it back to Florida but I was glad to be reunited with it.
  9. jmarc63

    jmarc63 New Member

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    I was amazed back In the 70's at lost and found at WDW. If we ever lost anything in the 8 times in ten years we were there and we reported it to l&f, it usually showed up in the mail a few weeks later. a few times we lost stuff early on in the trip and didn't find it but it would show up at home after we got back.

    I was wondering if L&f would would search you out as a WDW guest if you had Id on the item but didn't fill out a report and return it to you at you resort, Or would they send it ti the home address no matter what?


    On a diffrent note, How could someone forget to go after an artificial limb right away, Wouldn't you miss it right away? or is there something in the air that makes you forget everything else but the good time your having?
    :lol: :lol:
  10. MajinBuu

    MajinBuu New Member

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    Just wondering why none of the CMs (past and present) on the forums never mentioned the L+F Yard Sales? If you did... i sure didnt see it.
  11. Maria

    Maria New Member

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    Property Control has been mentioned before in different threads as part of some topic or as a thread drift.

    Just a big tent with lost items that noone claimed after certain time, and a trailer store with discontinued or damaged merchandise sold at sometimes 70% off. Sometimes there was good stuff, some others not really... ;)
  12. HMGhost13

    HMGhost13 New Member

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    i lost one of my prosthetic legs :lol:

    i'm serious though, we went for christmas back in 2000 at the boardwalk and as we were chaging rooms my leg got lost in between :lol:


    we got it back of course.
  13. Elaine

    Elaine New Member

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    Property Control

    I have heard of Property Control before but don't know where it is. Could someone please tell me where it is and how to get there. Do you have to be a castmember or can anyone visit this location. Thanks in advance. I know someone will provide me with this info.
  14. Holly

    Holly New Member

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    The only thing I was really worried about losing at WDW were my girls autograph books - but I labeled them on the inside with their name and "If found, return to the Contemporary".

    But I'm the most anal person about losing anything - I'd check my belongings after every single ride.

    Though the ship in front of us on Peter Pan did lose a hat - it floated down to the ground right below us.
  15. sjordan14

    sjordan14 New Member

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    Lost & Found - Try Calling!

    Has anyone else ever tried to call Lost & Found? It's impossible to get through to speak with anyone. We were at WDW in May '02. My wife lost her sunglasses on Big Thunder Mountain. We were told to check with L&F the next day and they happily gave us the phone number. Starting the next day, and everyday for the rest of our stay, we called to try and check on the sunglasses. Every call ends up on extended hold. After waiting almost an hour on many occasions, we gave up calling. You would think that if they know the hold times are that bad that it would say something on the message or encourage to stop by in person, but no. While they clearly get a lot of stuff that they have to handle, you think they could do something.
  16. Maria

    Maria New Member

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    Re: Property Control

    You have to be a castmember and show your id at the entrance. It is located behind the MK by Disney University. :)
  17. CAPTAIN HOOK

    CAPTAIN HOOK Active Member

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    Interesting article, thanks.
  18. TURKEY

    TURKEY New Member

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    Re: Lost & Found - Try Calling!


    FYI...There is no way to identify sunglasses by phone unless they are so unique (picture of your face, name) on them. So getting through by phone isn't going to do much good. It would have been much easier to just go and visit the Lost and Found.
  19. ToWeroFTerRor67

    ToWeroFTerRor67 New Member

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    I can only imagine

    it must look just like a dollar store:lol:
  20. Pumbas Nakasak

    Pumbas Nakasak Getting my 7 portions a day Premium Member

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    While i have managed to get through to lost n found I have never recovered any item our family has lost in the parks over the years. I was really annoyed about the pins so i hope the toe rag that found them breaks their lanyard under the weight.

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