Lost and Found
The amount of data that we’re carrying around with us on laptops, smartphones and tablets keeps growing. But with 70 percent of people having lost a data storage device, that data can literally slip through our fingers.
The average person now loses 1.24 items a year and less than half of those are ever recovered. The average cost of a lost item is $220.15, but it’s not just the value of the item itself that has an impact. Fifty-seven percent of people who had lost a device said that they were more upset about losing the data on the device than the device itself.
In fact, so strong is the desire to hang on to our smartphones – and the pictures, contacts and messages on them – that 93 percent of people who have dropped one down a toilet have attempted to retrieve it. Yet most loss comes down to human error. Just 18 percent of the things reported lost in the study were stolen, with most people stating that their own distraction or forgetfulness was to blame for losing their belongings.
This makes personal circumstances a huge contributing factor to loss. The times when people are busy and moving around a lot cause peaks in loss, so it may come as no surprise that 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in December are relatively disastrous when it comes to hanging on to your things.
Globally, big cities and areas where people use more public transit tend to form black holes for lost property. In the U.S., New York, Chicago and Atlanta form the Bermuda Triangle of the U.S. with more items lost here, per capita, than other parts of the country. Globally, 19 percent of items are lost on public transport.
With such a high percentage of loss happening in concentrated bursts, there’s a strong case for businesses and individuals to make sure that they are protected by ensuring that their items are insured and that the data on their electronic devices is backed up.
With more items going missing at 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays in December than any other time, businesses and individuals should protect both their physical items and their data against loss.
December is the month in which most items are lost, with Saturdays being the worst days for loss and nearly as many items going missing on Fridays and Saturdays than the rest of the week put together. Loss peaks at 6:00 p.m.
The transition from daytime activities to evening activities seems to create a perfect environment for loss. People dashing from the office, laptop bag in hand, to meet friends for an evening out, or people going from a day of shopping to a dinner with friends seem to be the most likely to get distracted and carried away – or are simply carrying too much to keep track of everything.
With people more inclined to be travelling to meet friends and family and to have more social commitments during the holidays, it’s no wonder that December is the most loss-packed month. A person leaving the office on a Friday night with an overnight bag and an armful of presents in addition to their usual laptop bag is, unsurprisingly, more likely to lose track of what they have with them.
Similarly, making last-minute arrangements of where to meet or snapping the highlights with your phone’s camera mean that more of us are using our smartphones – the most common item to go missing.
In areas where commuting for work on public transport is common, there’s also a peak in loss in the morning, which appears to correspond to travel to work. Nineteen percent of loss recorded was on public transit.
There’s also a seasonal peak in the summer, which appears to reflect loss while on vacation.
What time of the day are you most likely to lose/have your lost something?
On which day of the week are you most likely to lose/have your lost something?
Which month of the year are you most likely to lose/have your lost something?
Is your hometown a loss hotspot? Explore our loss map to find out where the most items go missing.
With 70 percent of people having lost a data storage device, business plans, contracts and proposals are disappearing in the back of taxicabs, in hotel rooms and on commuter trains.
The transition from work life into social life coincides with the peak time of day for losing things. Nineteen percent of property that’s lost is mislaid on public transport but people who travel to work by car are also likely to experience loss with 11 percent of lost and stolen items disappearing from a car.
Both electronic and data and printed information are at risk. The most commonly lost item is the smartphone, which, in our increasingly app-driven working environments, carries more business data than ever before. However, paperwork also features in the top 10 and 7.5 percent of people have lost their laptop in the last 12 months.
With more of us carrying smartphones than ever before, it’s no wonder that they are creeping up the list of lost items. It might be argued that, because we tend to take them out of our bags and pockets more frequently than other items, they are the most likely to slip through our fingers. As we use our phones to check messages, surf the web, take photos, play games, shop and even make payments, we’re forever picking them up and putting them down – and hopefully remembering where!
Other regularly lost items include, keys, credit cards and wallets – all things that we’re used to carrying but are small enough to escape our notice if we don’t have them with us.
Item 10 on the list, "paperwork," reminds us that it’s not just technology that can put data at risk. We’re still capable of losing our printed documents too.
There were several international discrepancies in the types of items that we lose. Fashion-conscious French are twice as likely to lose a favorite item of clothing than the Brits and four times as likely as Germans. Americans are twice as likely to lose laptops as Germans and four times as likely to lose their keys. Germans however are two-and-a-half times as likely to lose their purse or wallet as Brits or the French. The dreary weather in the UK might be the reason that the Brits are half as likely to lose their sunglasses than people in any other country.
Losing anything is an upsetting experience, but the research shows that people are most upset when they lose things that are difficult or impossible to replace.
Overall, respondents were most frustrated by the loss of bank and credit cards, which means one has to live without ready access to money until they can be replaced. And it puts people through the hassle of cancelling the cards and getting back anything fraudulently spent on them.
After credit cards, data storage devices in the form of laptops and smartphones take the second and third places respectively. And the statistics show that it’s not the devices themselves that people are sad about losing but the data that is stored on them.
Fifty-seven percent of people who had lost a device of this type stated that they were more upset about losing their data than they were about the gadget. With phones and laptops packed with pictures, documents and messages that are often irreplaceable, it’s no surprise that this is the case. When it comes to work devices, clearly the business information on the device is likely to be the primary concern when a laptop goes missing.
With younger people making their phones and laptops more central to their lives, this age group was more upset about losing them than their older counterparts. The prevalence of sadness at the loss of credit cards was driven by older respondents, where 25 percent of people 55 and older put it at the top of their list, compared to just 11 percent of 18 to 24 year olds.
Conversely, 27 percent of 18 to 24 year olds rated laptops as the item they’d be most upset about losing, compared to 10 percent of those over 55. A full 23 percent of 18 to 24 year olds placed their smartphone at the top of the list compared to just 5 precent of those over 55.
The emotional attachment people place on data, and the complexity and inconvenience of replacing bank and credit cards make them the most upsetting things for people to lose.
With the average person losing over $95.78 worth of stuff every year, billions are being lost
With the average person losing 1.24 items a year and just half of them being returned, every three years each person will have two items that they never see again.
The average value of a lost item is $176.25 and the average person irretrievably loses $95.78 of stuff each year.
Across all five countries surveyed, that’s a total loss of more than $47 billion every year.
But that doesn’t take into account the emotional value attached to the lost items. Losing a smartphone filled with pictures of the owner’s children is likely to mean a lot more than simply losing the phone itself.
Similarly, losing a laptop filled with work information can damage not only the business you work for but also your career if the incident changes people’s perception of you.
False teeth are some of the craziest things that turned up again and again on our lost list, with over 15 people stating that they’d been the unlucky finders of someone else’s false teeth.
Cannonballs, guns, a mummified dog and a parakeet were also found by respondents to our survey proving that no matter how precious, large or cumbersome an item is, it’s still possible to lose it.
Here’s our list of the looniest lost items our respondents found:
• A chicken
• A handcuff key
• One Prada shoe
• Two guinea pigs
• A bag of worms
• A bowler hat
• An antler
• False teeth
• Mummified dog
• A safe
• Two guinea pigs
• A gold tooth
• A full bank deposit bag
• A samurai sword
• A .45 caliber handgun
• A draft screenplay
• A parakeet
• A little black book
• A 17th century cannonball
• A cucumber in an umbrella stand
• A black pearl in a shell
• A small antique clock
• A rowing machine
• A winning scratch card
It’s sad that the items we hate to lose are the ones that we lose most often. But it appears that the reason why we’re so sad about losing them is not because we value our smartphones and laptops particularly, but because we will miss the data that’s stored on them.
Technology exists today to enable people to back up their digital content and protect themselves against this sort of loss. As awareness grows, the frustration associated with this sort of loss could be diminished.
In the meantime, Friday and Saturday early evenings in December will remain hotspots for loss and both businesses and individuals should be wary at these times to make sure they avoid the heartbreak that loss can bring.
In 2012, Mozy surveyed 3,500 people in the US, UK, Ireland, France and Germany regarding their experience of losing and finding items.
The survey was conducted independently by One Poll on behalf of Mozy, the world’s most trusted provider of online backup solutions.
Click here to learn more about Mozy and its tools for mobile data access and online data backup.