A friend of mine told me the other day that he’d never lost his wallet or phone before. I couldn’t believe him. I didn’t believe him. Everyone has lost a phone or a wallet before, and chances are, they have lost it on public transport. Got too pissed, or fell asleep, or just wore trousers with pockets that were too shallow (that’s how I lost my last phone, ffs).
Anyway, if you do happen to lose something on public transport in London – so that’s black cabs, buses, tubes, trains, etc. – then probably about five times out of ten, it heads to TFL’s lost property department. The other five times it goes into some teef’s pocket, annoyingly. But there are good people in the world, and sometimes it gets handed in, and you’ve got a shot at getting it back.
However, if you never claim it, then what happens to it? Well, it turns out that if it isn’t claimed within three months, it gets sold off and TfL bags a pretty pound for it. “Pretty pound” in this case, being £2 million over the last three years.
From April 2015 to March 2016, careless commuters and partygoers lost 32,929 mobile phones, 43,377 items of clothing and 43,068 bags. And during that same period, TfL flogged it all off to auction to the tune of £734,641. Nice work if you can get it.
A statement from TfL said: “We will remove and securely destroy any personal data before either donating the items to charities including The Salvation Army, The British Red Cross, and Scope, or recycling, disposing of, or selling them.”
And of course, any actual, physical money not claimed, it keeps, too.
But that’s not it – TfL will still squeeze a bit more water from that particularly hefty lost property stone – even if you go and claim your lost stuff, you’ll still be charged a “handling fee”, which supposedly covers the “collecting and handling” of your missing items.
Supposedly, the money all goes back into the upkeep of the lost property office, but, erm, that’s quite a lot of dough to keep a dusty old room from falling apart, isn’t it? There’s definitely been a few free staff nights out at Nando’s on behalf of us lot, I reckon. Can’t really blame them though, can you? Especially if you’re the type of person who takes the money out of a wallet before handing it in. You know who you are...