It's happened to everybody. You go to grab your phone, your wallet, or, gulp, your passport, and it isn't there. You frantically check your pockets, your bag, and every other place it could conceivably be, but eventually you have to face the facts: it's gone.
Losing an important item can be traumatic both emotionally and financially, which is why at YVR, we take our Lost & Found program seriously, making every attempt to return any item you might have left behind in the terminal.
An integral cog in this process is our Lost and Found Coordinator, Dawn Coates, who kicks off our On Approach series, where we highlight individuals at YVR who make a difference every day.
Name: Dawn Coates
Role: Lost & Found Coordinator, Marquise Customer Care team, YVR
Q. How long have you worked at YVR? What do you like most about your job?
A. I began with YVR Lost and Found in May 2005, left in September 2008 to take advantage of an employment offer. When the three year contract ended, I learned my old position was vacant. I applied and am happy to say I am back! I love the interaction with the public, helping folks reunite with their belongings, be it a diamond ring or a much-loved bunny! I feel very connected to the travelling public and when they are looking for a lost item, I can become a thread of hope to its return.
Q. What are the most common items that get turned in at YVR Lost & Found?
A. Glasses seem to be in the top found item category, with more than 450 pairs handed in over a four-month period - very easy to put down while checking in, paying a store bill or simply in the washroom. Clothing is always a high count - during the same four-month period, 795 items were handed in and only 107 items returned. We process about 90 items per day depending on the season.
Q. What are some of the weirdest items that you have come across?
A; Where do I start with this one? A prosthetic leg was the most unusual. Certainly not a laughing matter, but it was left at security. One wonders how it could have possibly been forgotten. All ended well; a very embarrassed gentleman called me the next day to claim – he was full of laughter as he told me he sat down to prepare for the security check, removed his leg, upon completion he was given a ride to the gate in a wheelchair, so didn’t “need” his leg!
In 2005 a carryon knapsack was returned to me. Per our usual procedure, I carefully examined the contents (wearing rubber gloves, I must add). I gently lifted out a large bottle and was horrified to see it contained a very long coiled snake of some sort! Luckily the bottle was sealed and the snake was pickled, but the image will remain in my mind forever! This was not claimed, but was donated to a local reptile shelter for their archive shelf.
Q. What do people need in order to claim an item?
A: First and foremost, the item has to be identified by the potential owner. Once the identification has been successfully completed, a claim number is given. The owner is then asked to visit our location - Customer Care Counter, Level 3, International Terminal - with his/her claim number and some identification
Q. What happens to the items that don’t get claimed?
A: Items are held for a total of 60 days. After that, items are sorted into different categories and then recycled or donated to the YVR Chaplaincy’s weekly thrift store. Personal digital items are stripped of all content and recycled. Glasses are sent to various vision charities and shipped to developing countries. ID is returned to issuing offices, keys are recycled and anything of potential value is handed to the Airport Authority for auction.
Q: What sort of lengths will you go to in order to return an item?
A: I will not leave a stone unturned, I am calling libraries, looking for the owner of the wallet who has a library card inside, loyalty tags attached to keys are
my favourite! I investigate everything, last number called on a cell phone, the last text message received….etc. etc. Luckily, folks are happy I go to these extremes to find them!