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Lost Property

Giugno 2009
Non solo guanti e ombrelli. Negli uffici Lost&Found si trova di tutto, compresi oggetti di lusso che non vengono mai reclamati.

di Derek Workman

File audio:

Andrew McKenzie
Andrew McKenzie


People with poor memories sometimes say, “I’d forget my head if it wasn’t fixed to my shoulders!” That may be an exaggeration, but people do leave some very strange things in hotels, on trains and buses, and even in museums: false teeth, sexy underwear, even a pet lizard called Humphrey! 


The first “Lost and Found” office was organised in Paris in 1805. Napoleon ordered the Prefect of Police to establish it as a central place “to collect all objects found in the streets of Paris.” These days the general public seems to be getting more forgetful and Transport for London (which supervises the Underground, buses, taxis, trains, trams and stations) finds over 156,000 pieces of lost property each year, including 24,000 bags and 10,000 mobile phones. The more peculiar objects that have been handed in include ashes in an urn, a grandfather clock, a kitchen sink, and several wheelchairs. But if you lose something and never claim it, what happens to that item?
Most lost property departments (the Police, hospitals, transport, hotels, etc.) have a fixed period of time that they will keep the item, so that the owner can claim it back: usually between three months and one year. After that they will usually send anything of value to auction: members of the public can pick up cameras, mobile phones, clothing etc. at bargain prices.


These days lost property organisations use the most modern technology. Bumble-bee Auctions (www.bumblebeeauctions.co.uk), for example, is the on-line auction site for UK Police Property Disposal. You can simply log on, bid for a bike, or a pair of shoes, just as you would with eBay. Unfortunately, you have to collect the item, so it may not be great value after all.

an expensive mistake

The money made from the auctions is given to charity. Glasses are often sent to Third World countries, where many people haven’t got enough money to buy a new pair. For the person who lost the original glasses, replacing them is not so expensive, but just think of the cost of buying a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch. Someone left this behind in a hotel – and never went back to claim it!

How Embarrassing!


Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

People can lose the strangest things and Andrew McKenzie, who has been a senior manager in the hotel business for many years, knows a lot about lost property. We asked him why guests leave things behind in hotels:

Andrew McKenzie (Scottish accent):

Well, that in itself is a very interesting question because some items that we have fall legitimately  into the category of “Lost Property,” but there are other items which I don’t think are lost at all. I think they’re left quite deliberately because they feel that if they take them home, they may tell a story that those who’ve left them would wish not to be told. It’s as simple as that. I mean, I would give you an example of something like lingerie: now it may be that the negligée that the chambermaid collects from the room the next day has been left there by accident, but it doesn’t need too much imagination to come to the conclusion that it might have been left there deliberately and the kind of things that we find could be the foundation of a plot for a novel!

But why would somebody intentionally leave behind some lingerie in a hotel?

Andrew McKenzie:

Because they might have been making that visit to the hotel in a slightly illicit way that they would not wish people to know about and, if lingerie were attached to the... the visit they’d made, it could get them into some trouble!

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people with poor memories - le persone con la memoria corta.

false teeth - dentiere.

underwear - biancheria.

pet lizard - lucertola addomesticata.

handed in - consegnati.

ashes in an urn - ceneri in un’urna funeraria.

grandfather clock - orologio a pendolo.

sink - lavello.

several wheelchairs - diverse sedie a rotelle.

never claim it - e non lo ritiri mai.

item - oggetto.

auction - asta.

pick up... at bargain - prices ritirare... a prezzi convenienti.

log on - accedere.

bid for a bike - fare un’offerta per una bicicletta.

diamond-encrusted - tempestato di diamanti.



chambermaid - cameriera ai piani.

the plot for a novel - la trama di un romanzo.

it could get them into some trouble - potrebbero finire in qualche guaio.