Losing a mobile phone or a boat on the tube or bus? Hey, don’t say that this rhetorical question doesn’t refer to you. It is going to happen – because it’s your drunk night out or because you’re always leaving things, your head included, basically everywhere. If you forgot to take all your belongings with you, they are likely to finish their journey in the Lost Property Office on Baker Street. What does the secret chamber of TFL hide, besides some pretty imaginable stuff that was left behind?
The number of things which Londoners lose on the tube and buses on a daily basis could be easily counted in hundreds. But if we wanted to sum it up, the total number of lost things rises up to thousands. According to TFL’s press office, people left 731 items behind in the last financial year – and it’s only a tiny chunk of the things that are being found daily. Additionally, over 90 items are claimed directly from stations and garages every day. After a few days, if the owner doesn’t decide to show up and take their possession back with them, the unclaimed item is sent to the Lost Property Office, located by Baker Street. Usually, opening the door to Sesame of the public transport in London would reveal around 55,000 items which are stored there. Considering the population of the agglomeration plus the tourists and the daily flood of lost property, is there any hope to find the thing that disappeared on the subway or somewhere on the upper deck of the bus? The chances oscillate close to 9%. The press office of TFL shows that although it’s difficult, it may also quite possible. Of the 232,675 items which arrived at the Lost Property Office in the last financial year, as many 20,027 items were reclaimed by their rightful owners. Even if your lost possession was very valuable, there is a chance that you’ll get it back (unless it’s your very precious heart).
“Several items worth over £50,000 have been returned to their owners across the years,” Tamara Salhab, the TFL spokeswoman claims.
It doesn’t mean that you can wait forever to get back what you’ve lost, though. All the items that weren’t claimed during the three month period become a property of TFL. That gives them the right of deciding about the destiny of the lost things – which is either to be destroyed, donated to charity, recycled or thrown away. If it’s an electronic device or any other data container, the personal things have to be securely removed from it before taking any other action. The funds from selling and utilising those, along with the found money, help in funding the Lost Property Office.
On the other hand, is there any particular thing that an average citizen of London loses every day?
“I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical Londoner, that’s a part of what makes this city so great,” claims the TFL spokesperson. However, if you ever were to be locked in the storage room without the access to windows or weather forecasts, you’d apparently be able to differentiate the current season by observing the rise of the number of certain accessories.
“You can usually tell what season it is by the increase in hats and scarves coming in during the winter months or sunglasses and summer hats when the weather is warmer,” the TFL spokeswoman explains.
The LPO gets the massive number of mobile phones, and those make the biggest group of the lost property. People also lose a fair amount of bags, wallets and Oyster cards. Moreover, there’s always someone who forgets to pick up their books and documents when leaving the train.
A reunion with a beloved thing can be quite emotional, as it turns out. People’s reaction differ – and they are as diverse as both emotional and material value of the lost property.
“I remember one student who came to collect their final year coursework,” the TFL press officer says. “They were trying very hard to keep it all together but once they had the property back in their hands, the full realisation that their entire year’s work had been saved was just too much for them and the tears flowed freely. We keep a box of tissues handy by the counter,” she declares. Nevertheless, some people have other ways to show how moved they are as despair turns into the full joy, just as in the video below:
Considering the fact that people use the tube when moving flats or travelling, the number of unusual findings is also quite big. It hasn’t been proved, yet the London underground might have some healing powers, as the number of crutches and wheelchairs was relatively strange. Same goes with the prams.
“Luckily, none of the prams has ever included a baby,” the TFL spokesman assures jokingly.
When it comes to other extraordinary discoveries, there were even more interesting ones.
“We’ve had a very elegant top hat in its own custom-made storage box, a lawnmower, a park bench, a stuffed puffa fish and an array of false teeth, eyes and limbs,” Salhab claims. “The biggest item was probably a 14ft boat.”
So if your wallet, your documents or your lawnmower disappeared on the bus, don’t hesitate to contact the LPO. If you’re lucky enough to have your things labelled, you are likely to be contacted by a staff member. It usually takes around two working days for the items to arrive at Baker Street. Later, customers can look for about lost property in several ways. They can either call 0845 330 9882 between 8:30 and 16:00 on a working day or fill the online enquiry form. Alternatively, you can just come or write to LPO.