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Should Your Biz Have a Lost-and-Found Policy?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Customers leave behind items all the time. It's how the "finder" handles it that can make headlines.

From the Las Vegas cabbie who returned a passenger's $300,000 in gambling winnings to a teen server who gave back a family's $1,600 Christmas vacation money, nothing gives you the warm and fuzzies quite like honesty, especially around the holidays.

Stories like this remind business owners that a solid lost and found policy can save a customer's day.

What to Do With Lost Property?

Legally speaking, the classic adage, "finders keepers, losers weepers" is actually inaccurate. In general, the finder of lost property has more of a legal right to the property than anyone -- except the true owner.

That means if you find it, you can't necessarily keep it. In fact many states, like California, legally require "finders" who have knowledge of the true owner's identity to take certain proactive steps. They must make reasonable efforts to return the property.

Given business owners' legal obligation to return customers' property, they should have an effective lost-and-found policy.

Lost-and-Found Policy

When crafting your lost-and-found policy, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Choose a secure location. Make sure employees know where it is and that it can be securely locked.
  • Handle purses and wallets with special care. The owner or manager should immediately check the purse or wallet for an ID or other contact information. Contact the item's owner immediately.
  • Set up guidelines for loose money. For amounts over $5, have a policy for how long money should be held before it is given to the finder or placed into petty cash as profit. Don't store it in the cash drawer (or in your pocket).

When an employee finds and returns an especially large amount of cash or valuable item, consider providing a reward for a job well done. It's an excellent way to motivate workers to follow the policy, boost morale, and show that you genuinely appreciate their honesty.

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