April 3, 2013 -- I've been known to leave things behind at hotels. There was the brand new $50 face wash at an airport hotel in Dallas. The favorite flip flops in Mauritius. The bathing suit left hanging in the bathroom in Bangkok. The phone chargers left plugged into hotel room walls in San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Phoenix.
The just-purchased, designer wallet left behind in Las Vegas. It was a long night, and I was rushing to make a 7 a.m. flight.
In a few cases, I tried to retrieve what I forgot. In no case was I successful.
But that was before Chargerback.com, a site that automates the lost-and-found process for hotels and travelers. Brian Colodny, the site's co-founder and president, said that in a 1,000-room hotel, 800 items are found per month.
While hotels have jumped into the deep end when it comes to technology (order room service from your iPhone! Virtual concierge!) the lost-and-found process for most is still archaic, involving nothing more than a notebook or excel spreadsheet. Travelers have to call the hotel and are often bounced from front desk to housekeeping to guest services before being told to expect a call back that never comes.
Now, a traveler who left something behind simply goes to the hotel web site. At the Luxor, a Chargerback partner, a guest would click on "Contact Us," then "Lost and Found," where they would fill out a form with a description of the lost item.
On the other end, a hotel employee enters found items into the system. When there's a match, the hotel auto-notifies the guest, and gives them the option to have the item shipped, let it go, or opt for an in-person pickup.
If the guest opts to have the item shipped, the hotel selects a box size from the USPS and lets the guest know how much it will cost. When the guest pays through the automated system, the hotel prints a label, puts it on the box, and off the item goes.
"In five clicks of the mouse the item is returned to the guest," Colodny said.
The service doesn't cost the hotel a dime, and, according to Colodny, builds brand loyalty. Ninety-five percent of guests who's items are found are reunited with their lost belonging.
Among Chargerback's hotel partners are familiar names like Luxor, New York New York, Excelsior and Treasure Island. And since the Nevada-based company started publicizing itself on Tuesday, they've signed up 15 new hotels, said Colodny.
"We make money every time a hotel guest is reunited with their lost item," said Colodny. And with an estimated 46 million items are left behind in U.S. hotels each year, there's a lot of money to be made.