A couple weeks back during Maker Faire New York, one of the adolescent members of our party suddenly realized he’d misplaced the mega-gig iPod Touch he’d just received for his birthday. Emotions subsequently ran rather high.
“Look,” I finally pointed out: “If this were a department store in midtown Manhattan, I’d be worried for you. But we’re in the Geek heartland, here–we’re at a science museum. First of all, everyone in a two-square-mile radius already owns an iPhone, so they’re only going to be so interested in your iPod. Secondly, this is a pretty idealistic crowd. If you go talk to someone at security, I bet you’ll get your Touch returned to you.”
Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, the boy and his electronic device were happily reunited…
Ironically, not five minutes after this, a very friendly woman from the start-up FoundIt! showed up at the GeekMom/Dad table asking if we’d be willing to hear about an electronic service designed to help people reconnect with things they’ve lost. “Where were you an hour ago?” we all shouted.
For just the cost of a couple of Starbucks lattes (anywhere from $8 for one year to $24 for four years, depending on the plan), FoundIt! will send its customers sheets of coded stickers that can be attached to any electronics devices or personal possessions (the “MacDaddy Family Package” that I was provided with even includes bag tags, pet tags, and luggage tags). Customers then head over to the website and plug in an email and cell phone number where they can be reached. When a lost item is discovered, FoundIt! acts as an electronic intermediary that can anonymously allow the finder and the owner to negotiate a return.
So, to recap:
- You lose your music player.
- Somebody finds it and sees the FoundIt! sticker.
- The Finder goes to FoundIt.net, enters your ID, and types a message.
- They can also report by text message.
- FoundIt! notifies you (by text and email).
- You and your device are reunited (and it feels so good)!
There are no guarantees when you’re working within the honor system–sure, an unscrupulous person can ignore a sticker and keep your stuff. Most people, though, are honest and will return a lost item as long as the process isn’t too time-consuming or complicated. When I stop to consider the cash value of the iPods, PSPs, Gameboys, and cell phones that my sons regularly leave home carrying, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all to spend an additional fifty cents or so and throw a FoundIt! sticker on all of those big-ticket items…