When you travel for business, few things are as frustrating as losing your belongings. Whether it's luggage or a carry-on item, there's a good chance a lost item will interfere with your business plans and your day. If you need to find your lost item, you can either call the airline or write a letter for your lost item. The method you use may depend on how quickly you need to retrieve the item.

Contact the Airline 

Most airlines answer questions about lost property faster if you contact them via social media. Tweet about your lost items and wait for a response. While you await a reply, speak with the gate agent, conductor or bus driver. You can also send texts and make calls for faster answers. Lost baggage has dropped from 46.9 million mishandled bags to just 21.6 million between 2007 and 2016. Lost carry-on items such as cell phones, laptops and tablets cost business travelers an average of $220.15 in 2018, according to the research team at MozyPro.

Get Organized Before You Leave

The most effective lost-item letter gets written before you leave for your flight. If that sounds absurd, it reflects the timing challenge of reuniting with your lost items. Take a photo of each of your business items as you pack it. Write a short description for each one. Include any model numbers, serial numbers and product descriptions.

Number the list to match the order in which each item was packed. Include a copy of the original purchase receipt for each item you pack if you have it. Including your bill of sale bolsters your claim when belongings go astray. Doing this proves that you have not just pulled a number out of the air for the item's value.

Do not mail the letter yet. Instead, make three copies. Leave one of them at home or at your office in a safe place. Put one duplicate in your checked luggage and carry the third copy with you. Scan one photocopy into your email as well, and send it to yourself. You will thank yourself later.

Search Your Vehicle

Check your vehicle first when you discover your loss, whether you own the car or you rented it. Many lost items fall under the driver's seat or disappear in the trunk. Check with skycaps, bellhops and traffic wavers just in case you dropped your belongings on the way into or out of the airport, bus station, train depot or hotel. Since these employees see you before any others do, they may have found your belongings and already begun searching for you. Add a line to your letter detailing the steps you took to recover your lost possessions.

Check Your Bags

Take everything out of your luggage, purse, laptop case, messenger bag or backpack. Feel inside every pocket to ensure that you did not miss anything in your search. Note whether you found any broken zippers or signs of tampering, such as cuts or tears in the fabric, cracks in plastic or metal-sided luggage or loose stitching along seams. Include any pertinent information in your letter.

Backtrack Your Route 

Check the hooks on bathroom stalls. Stop at any snack bars or restaurants you may have patronized and look under the table or along the foot rail at the bar. Ask the host or wait staff if they found anything matching your missing carry-on luggage, purse, laptop case or messenger bag. Add all this information to your correspondence as well.

Call Security Staff

Ask security staff if they have found any of your belongings. Talk to TSA screeners, gate staff, cabin cleaners and baggage retrieval staff. Fill out lost item reports and have team members make copies of your packing list letter to attach to the reports.

Mail Your Letter

Mail your packing list letter and the details of your search to the airport, hotel or other locations you passed through. Your correspondence should follow the standard block format for a formal business letter. Your address begins at the top left of the page. List your office number and street on the first line and your business city, state, and zip code on the second line. Skip one line and write today's date, then skip another line after that.

Next, you will write the recipient's full name and title, if you know it. Do not use "To Whom It May Concern." Letters are the slowest way to communicate as it is. Failing to provide at least a job title, such as "Dear Head of Airport Security at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport," will slow the process even further. On the next line, write the address of the airport, hotel or other location where you last remember seeing or using your missing property. Skip a line again and begin your letter.

Dear Alan Jennings, TSA screener at Akron-Canton Airport:

I have lost or misplaced the following items on your airline. I was flying Delta Airlines flight 1065 on 03/15/2018. Departure from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport was at 1 a.m. Arizona time. We arrived at Akron-Canton Airport 10 hours later at 11 a.m. EST. I left my cell phone, Kindle and iPod in Seat 31C. The cell phone is a Samsung, model number 1358764523. The Kindle has a Cthulu for President sticker on the back and laser-style rainbow stickers on all four corners on the front. I wrote my name and address on the back in black Sharpie. The iPod has purple earbud-style headphones attached, and I used aqua glitter nail polish to write my name on the back. Please let me know when you find it, and tell me when or where to claim it.


Sylvie Autumn Sanderson