New York's Lost And Found System For Taxis Is Awful

If you’ve lost something in a New York City taxi—get ready for the worst customer service experience you will ever have. Gothamist reports that New York City Council member Gale Brewer is blasting the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s so-called “system”:

Brewer said, “A New Yorker misfortunate enough to lose her property in a taxi is more likely to find overwhelmed hotlines and contradictory instructions than she is to recover her missing possession. The TLC procedure is rarely followed and is hopeless without a receipt. The TLC’s system does not work, if it could even be called a system.”

They also listed some flaws that Brewer cited in her report:

- The TLC hotline is understaffed. The staff made six attempts to contact the TLC through the hotline from June 13 through June 19. The minimum time on hold was ten minutes, and staff only reached an operator twice.
Officers at the designated precincts are generally uninformed about the TLC’s policy. Staff at the 17 Precinct in Manhattan, one of the designated precincts, was unaware of any TLC designated precincts.
– A lot of lost property is not taken to the precincts, but is instead left with the taxi garage managers. As of June 20, the 107 Precinct in Queens had not had any items brought in for at least two months.
– There is no way to contact the garage without a receipt.

There are a few more at Gothamist. We have to wonder, if your system is going to suck that bad… why even have it? It would be better to have a sign that says, “If you leave stuff in the taxi it is immediately eaten by bears. Don’t waste your time calling us.”

Big Yellow Taxi, Big Void of Lost Items [Gothamist]
(Photo:klamouze)

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  1. Hawk07 says:

    [www.evanwashere.com]


    Remember the How NOT to steal a sidekick story?

  2. daveinFL says:

    Many places are like this. Where I live there is also a system, but it is not followed by the taxi driver. Why? Because (in addition to some who are jsut crooks) the taxi driver is not compensated for their time or gas to go return the items to the police station as they are supposed to. If they do the right thing, it often costs them money in gas and time where many of them are already near poverty already. I wonder if this is part of the reason why you have problems in NYC as well. The city should establish a reasonable finders fee if they have not already done so then enforce it strictly.

  3. Kwummy says:

    I live in Chicago and I’ve gotta say that if you leave something in a cab you might as well consider it gone. It does suck the “system” doesn’t work, but you really shouldn’t have your hopes up to begin with that you’re going to track down something you lose in a taxi.

  4. Jacquilynne says:

    Logistically a little different than taxis, but the transit system in Toronto has the most efficiently wonderful lost and found system I’ve ever encountered. They get a huge amount of crap in every day from buses, subways and streetcars, and it all ends up in the same place, and catalogued carefully in a computer by type of object, what bus run it was found on, approximately what time, and a general description. They had it back to me in about 5 minutes.

  5. veronykah says:

    As someone who lived in NYC for quite awhile isn’t it a general expectation that if you lose something ANYWHERE in the city you can pretty much kiss it goodbye?
    As for the “system” the TLC has for lost and found, it sounds pretty much as I would expect it to be. If you didn’t leave your belongings in a cab with an honest driver and a BIG tip, I wouldn’t expect it to be found.
    Welcome to NYC!

  6. cde says:

    @veronykah: You didn’t hear the story of the cab driver who returned 60,000 dollars worth of diamonds to a lady who didn’t tip him (Only to receive like 150 as a reward)

  7. Buran says:

    Label your stuff. A service like stuffbak.com that provides rewards (since most people don’t lose stuff, the fees from those that don’t cover the rewards for those that do) and an anonymous way to get your stuff back. That way your name and address aren’t scattered around.

    I have a stuffbak sticker on my car key (big VW switchblade). I don’t want someone knowing my name and address because that’s advertising “HEY! Free car!” to anyone who might find the key.

  8. Rudko says:

    As a former cab driver myself, I can tell you, while there are the rare exceptions as noted above, generally you can ask yourself this question: Did I tip the driver?

    The answer to that question is usually the same answer to the question: Did the driver find my wallet/camera/phone/etc…

    Probably just a coincidence ;)

  9. coconino says:

    Agree with others. If you lost something in the cab you might as well forget about it. It is rare to see someone return something precious to you these days, not to mention in a big city like NYC.

  10. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    You should have no excpectations about recovering something lost in a taxi. Consider it gone.

  11. meehgz says:

    I lost my Motorola Q in a cab in Manhattan a few weeks ago and left a message on the Lost and Found number’s line, filed an internet claim, etc., and heard nothing. I called the NYPD switchboard in hopes to get a phone number that would not lead to an answering machine and was directed to the 17th precinct (the designated location for L&F items from cabs to be turned into for Manhattan) and spoke to a numbskull who forwarded me to some Central Park precinct who then laughed at me for calling the wrong precinct and directed me back to the 17th precinct who this time told me I would have to physically be present to ask if my phone had been turned in.


    By this point, I was extremely agitated and heatedly replied that I wished not to drive four hours back to the city just to have the privilege of asking if my phone was present. When they finally allowed me to describe my item, I was only on hold for a minute when the person I had been speaking to told me they didn’t have it. I’m SURE they were able to search their entire stock in a matter of seconds.


    At least I was eventually able to use the Consumerist Sprint Executive Customer Support line (after, of course, several more numbskull-laden conversations with regular CSRs) to get another Motorola Q for a bit less than the $449 retail price.

  12. FLConsumer says:

    At least NYC has some sort of central taxi organization. Most US towns/cities don’t. It shouldn’t be too difficult to straighten up the system there…. then again, the 2nd Ave subway was started in 1920 and still isn’t finished yet…

  13. getjustin says:

    Consider it like this: at least there is some sort of recourse if you lose something in a cab. Do that anywhere else, and you’ve got nothing. It’s no surprise that you have to jump through numerous hoops, often repeatedly, but at least you know there’s a glimmer of hope.

    Moral: Hold on to your goodies.

  14. Ncisfan says:

    @getjustin: exactly. Also check your pockets before you leave the cab

  15. overstim says:

    I had an outstanding experience in Philadelphia this spring when I left my wallet in a cab.

    My hotel looked up the number for the Philly transit authority. I called, and was connected to a live person in about a minute. i explained my predicament, and they gave me the number of “the woman in charge of that sort of thing.”

    I called her, and her voicemail informed me she was away from her desk. I left a message and she called me back within thirty minutes. She asked me the cab number, which I, sadly, was unable to give. She asked me the cab company, but I didn’t even know that. (hey, it was really late and my plane was late and I was tired, and there was a hurricane, and wolves…)

    “Well…” she continued, with infinite patience, “Can you tell me at least where you left from, where you went and what time?” Well sure, I had that. Airport to the Hilton, 12:35 am. About 10 seconds later, she came back.

    “Oh, okay, I have the cab number, I’m calling him, one moment please… Alright, sir? We have your wallet. Are you still at the Hilton? One of our officers can drop it off in about an hour.”

    And a half hour later, it was at the hotel desk for me. I would have sent that woman flowers if I had gotten her name. I really should start taking notes. But thats another story.

    NYC, take some notes from Philly!!!

  16. aparsons says:

    I label everything with a sticker that says “If found call (XXX) XXX-XXXX.” It is a landline number that you can at least leave a voicemail. My cell phone has a sticker on the back of it, the back of my ID in my wallet has a sticker, and my keychain has a sticker. I’ve lost a cell phone before and people actually called the number (in the dirty jerz, none the less). I was unfortunate to lose a wallet (before my “system”) in a NYC cab and never got it back. The first thing I do when I get in the cab anymore is remember the ID number on the back of the divider.

    I also lost a wallet in a Boston cab and THEY HAVE THE BEST SYSTEM EVER. All taxis, before turning their shift, collect all belongings and take them to one single precinct. I lost my wallet, waited until 12:30AM (when the taxi drivers switched shifts) and then called the police station. Everything in my wallet was there – including the money. I wanted to give the cab driver a huge tip, but he didn’t leave a name or number.

    It is probably better to just label your stuff with one of those dymo label writers though….

  17. Matthew says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: Exactly right. There might as well be a “lost and found” for things people drop off cruise ships into the sea.

  18. agent2600 says:

    Two times, I have left things in a cab, have chased after it, arms waving, and he just kept going….

    on the other end of the stick, NYC’s MTA’s lost and found is one of the best I would have to say. I have had serveral friends drunkenly loose everything from wallets to cellphones on the train’s late at night and ALWAYS get them back within a few days. now…I don’t know if the daytime would be the same (as I am sure someone would swipe it) but if you lose somthing late night chances are, you will get it back.

  19. Anonymous says:

    There is now a online lost and found system for NYC Taxis at http://www.yellowcabnyc.com