TfL is made up of some fascinating departments, with the Lost Property Office being up there as one of the most interesting. To get a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes, and to learn more about what happens when an item is left on London’s Transport, I spent the day making a documentary for the Museum’s collection with film-maker Geoff Marshall. We explored the stores, watched as staff took customer calls and spoke to them about their experience of working in such an unusual environment.
In 2009, the LPO received a whopping 184,969 items of lost property, ranging from single gloves, laptops, umbrellas and school bags, through to toys, glasses and thousands of mobile phones. When we went down this week the store room was packed with items, all clearly labelled and neatly arranged in numbered zones. The staff work very efficiently – we watched as a call came in from the customer point upstairs, requesting an object be sent up for return. It took the staff less than a minute to locate the object and send it up in the goods lift, making for happy customers.
The LPO store also houses some more bizarre objects which have never been re-claimed, including false teeth, a grandfather clock, a stuffed fox and some prosthetic limbs. There were also single shoes, crutches and walking sticks, which make you wonder how the owners didn’t notice they had left such objects behind!
Staff gave us a run-through of what happens to an item, from it being left on a bus or Tube to its hopeful return to the owner. Items are normally handed in by members of the public to TfL staff, or are found by staff when checking the vehicles during their shifts. These items are logged with the details of where and when it was found, and are then collected by TfL post vans and delivered to the LPO. Here they are checked and logged onto the computer system, and labelled to LPO’s high standards, before being sent down to the store room for safe keeping. Items are kept for 3 months, in which time it’s hoped the owner will have made contact with the office and come to claim it back. If not, the items in good condition are donated to charity or sold to help fund the running of the office. Charities across the world have benefited over the years, with donated items ranging from clothing for the Salvation Army to sports equipment for charities in Africa.
Geoff and I had a great day and will showcase the finished film soon – watch this space! And if you’ve lost an item and want to reclaim it, check out the LPO’s website for more information http://www.tfl.gov.uk/contact/871.aspx