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  • Writer's pictureJames Mosieur

The Hidden Dangers of Selling Unclaimed Lost and Found Items

Updated: Jul 8

A banner with image of a glacier and the title: The Hidden Dangers of Selling Unclaimed Lost and Found Items

In the fast-paced world of hospitality and customer service, companies often grapple with the best ways to handle lost and found items. While selling unclaimed items might seem like a practical solution, it’s a practice fraught with numerous pitfalls. Here's why selling unclaimed lost and found items is a bad idea:

Conflict of Interest

Jenga game with a stick with the word "Trust" being slid out of the puzzle

The mere perception of a conflict of interest can erode customer trust. Guests might think, "Why would the company make an effort to return an item if they can sell it and make money?" Even if the company operates with the best intentions, this suspicion can create an element of distrust that undermines the customer’s confidence in the organization.

Poor Guest Experience

A hand with a red marker checking off a frown face showing they experienced poor customer service. There are two other faces that could be checked off - a straight face and a smiley face.

Imagine enjoying a phenomenal stay at a beautiful resort where the customer service was second to none, but then realizing you've lost your watch on the property. You call the resort, and despite their best efforts, the item isn't found. Then you ask, “By the way, what do you do with unclaimed items?” and the Lost & Found representative replies, “We sell them.” This response can sour what was otherwise a perfect experience. Guests expect their belongings to be treated with care and respect, not seen as potential revenue streams.

Compromise of Personal Information

computer data with wording such as, credit card, personal information, password, ID, with a magnifying glass

Consider the implications of selling items that might contain personal information. A ring with a sentimental inscription, a smartphone filled with lurid photos, or a laptop with sensitive banking information—these items carry personal significance and privacy risks. Can a company truly guarantee that personal data won’t be compromised once an item is sold? The potential for personal information to be mishandled or misused can cause significant distress to the original owners.

Inconsistent Valuation and Unfulfilled Expectations

Vintage meat grinder shredding a $100 bill

While cash and jewelry have straightforward market values, electronics and other personal items do not. Valuing such items accurately is challenging and often subjective.

When companies advertise to purchase your unclaimed electronics, they often showcase their most generous offers. "Receive up to $500 for an iPhone 15" might be the headline, but in reality, this figure is rarely achieved. Companies need to make a profit, so they will typically pay about 50% of the market value. Additionally, they make numerous deductions based on the item's condition:

  • A non-working front camera? Deduction.

  • Battery with less than 90% useful life? Deduction.

  • Device locked to the original user? BIG deduction.

  • Reported lost or stolen? Another BIG deduction.

  • Physical condition issues, even minor ones, can lead to significant deductions.

An iPhone 15 initially valued at $900 might end up being worth only $50 or less after these deductions. Some items may even be deemed worthless. This disparity between expectation and reality can leave companies and customers feeling cheated and dissatisfied.

Utilize Trusted Services for Secure Disposal

To effectively manage and securely dispose of unclaimed electronic devices, companies can leverage the services of organizations like the 911 Cell Phone Bank and BOUNTE™.

911 Cell Phone Bank logo

The 911 Cell Phone Bank is a nonprofit organization that specializes in guaranteed secure data erasure, while providing a valuable resource to law enforcement and victims agencies to assist victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. The service is 100% free, including shipping costs.


BOUNTE delivers a convenient, fast, and reliable AI cloud-based software program for managing and returning lost items. Their smartphone app uses AI image recognition to identify and log items while an integrated shipping wizard handles the return process and labeling.

By utilizing these trusted services, businesses can enhance their commitment to privacy and security while contributing to socially beneficial initiatives.


Selling unclaimed lost and found items is not just a logistical challenge; it poses ethical, experiential, and reputational risks for businesses. It is essential for companies to have a clear and ethical policy for handling unclaimed items, preferably one that prioritizes returning items to their rightful owners and maintaining customer trust.

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