Airport Surprise: 1,200 Laptops a Week Lost at LAX
Last year Dell computers commissioned a study that found that 12,000 laptops are lost each
|Dell.com/USC Regional History Archives|
Now, part of our shock about these numbers comes from the absent-mindedness of travelers who lose sight of a valuable piece of luggage -- and one that they probably need to conduct their business or lives at the other end of their flights. But another thought comes to mind: Why don't the TSA screeners call after people who have left their notebook computers behind -- are they themselves too busy? do they assume such left luggage is dangerous and immediately dunk the laptops in a bucket of water?
Calls to LAX and Burbank Airport's TSA offices went unreturned by posting time, but Sandee McFarland, who works for a private company that manages Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, says screeners do attempt to page passengers who become separated from their belongings -- then lists the most-often lost items.
"We get belts," says McFarland who works in Bob Hope's lost and found department. "Everyone leave their belts, cell phones, clothing items, thumb drives, keys, watches. I've read about the laptops, but I don't get those -- TSA has them."
A newsletter for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees offers some advise for tech-lugging travelers. Besides geek-squad mantras to encrypt and back up data, the tips also include some very down-to-earth wisdom: Only take a laptop if it's really necessary to your trip and give yourself lots of time "to avoid mistakes made more likely by having to hurry. Airports are a physical and mental obstacle course."
One employee who works at a Southern California airport and who did not wish to be identified, confirmed how spaced-out flyers become -- especially those who show up half an hour before takeoff and think they can just walk straight on to the plane. This employee noted that TSA screeners will page travelers by name when their identities are known. Still, even here, the employee says, travelers will often later admit they heard their names on the public address system after leaving the security checkpoint -- but somehow didn't make the connection that they were being asked to recover lost items.
The Livermore Lab newsletter says the best way to ensure that lost laptop gets returned is to leave your name and phone number in its battery compartment -- an area not available to prying eyes, but one that screeners are trained to quickly access. Either that, or take the train.