Matchmaking at the Lost and Found Office

By Laura TomassiniMike Zenari Switch to German for original article

Found objects are part of everyday life in public spaces, because wherever people go, things get lost. Both at the national police lost-and-found office and at the CFL's Lost&Found, the most bizarre objects adorn the shelves and await a happy return to their owners.

If you find it, you can keep it – but only if no one picks it up. Found objects are stored for up to three years at the "Service national des objets trouvés", or SNOT for short, before they are either found, destroyed or donated. The finder only becomes the lucky new owner of the object if it does not fall into the category of data carriers, as Nico Richard from SNOT explains: "In the past, a lot of things were auctioned off publicly after a certain period of time, including smartphones. That is no longer possible for data protection reasons. We can't afford to have photos show up somewhere at some point and say, 'We got these from the police.'"

Smartphones, computers, video cameras – all of these items are no longer just zeroed out, but picked up and destroyed twice a year by a private company. Generally, there are two principles in the National Lost and Found Office: Objects with a value of less than 200 euros remain for two months, everything above that for the three years mentioned above. There is only limited legal regulation of the retention period, but the SNOT falls under the provisions of the Civil Code, according to which owners can sometimes take a little more time to retrieve lost property.

The "cheapest scrapping service in the Grand Duchy"

The registry at Findel typically contains between 25,000 and 30,000 lost and found items, a number that should be taken with a grain of salt, says Richard: "A single wallet, for example, can yield ten numbers, because each item, whether it's a passport, credit card or health insurance card, is cataloged individually with us." From small lighters to dentures, the SNOT team has seen it all. "Once a bowling ball landed with us, sometimes you really don't know if people aren't having a joke with us", says the service manager.

Colleague Bruno Coutinho also remembers many a curiosity in the lost-and-found office – such as a raclette machine or a complete golf set – and refers to the tendency to confuse the office with bulky waste: "We're sometimes even contacted when there's a half-broken bicycle lying around somewhere in the undergrowth." The "cheapest scrapping service in the Grand Duchy", as Richard winkingly calls his office, because SNOT is the last link in the country's lost-and-found chain. Everything that is not picked up after eight days in the in-house lost property office inby companies, swimming pools, sports halls and the like, therefore ends up in storage at Findel.

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On the edge