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When a runner loses his Garmin watch

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 26, 2015 8:23:00 AM


When a runner loses his Garmin watch

What do you get when you combine a worried girlfriend, an exhausted, clumsy runner, an airport and a security check in? Yes, lost property is the right answer. I’ve lost my Garmin watch when I travelled to Vienna in 2015 for the marathon. The good news is that I got it back and I would like to share some tips with you what to do if the same happens to you, as there are apparently not a lot of guides around this on the net, but a lot of lost property at the airports. Best advise, do not öose your stuff in the first place.

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A runner’s watch is more than just a piece of equipment

It might sound a bit strange but if you run a lot the tool you measure your performance with becomes a bit of an extension of yourself, just like the mobiles are in this modern age in the internet of everything. When you misplace your running watch you already picture yourself with the hassle of transferring your data onto a new system or trying to get the old data synced with a new watch which comes at a hefty price of 220€ upwards. On top of that my watch was a Christmas present from my girlfriend, so I am also in trouble about that.

Lesson 1: Put your running watch into your running bag or luggage after a marathon

None of this would have happened if I had realised that brain would be mush on that day and the day after the marathon anyway. So minimise the amount of risk at the airport by putting all of the essential technology in your luggage rather than wearing it on your body. You will have your mobile to check the time and the airport has loads of displays and even nice people to call out your name when you are late. No need for your Garmin watch to be on your wrist, except of course you wanted to measure distances at the airport for some kind of strange reason.

Lesson 2: Put your running watch into your jacket instead of the tray

Usually I would put all of my belongings into the pockets of my jacket and zip them up before I go through security. This time I did not with correlating result of loss. This tip does not only go for watches, but generally at airports. Makes everything quicker and easier than putting several items in the tray. It is unlikely that you will forget your jacket and if all of the tiny objects you have on you are in there they are incorporated in the “I won’t forget this” pile.

Lesson 3: If you put small items in the tray, do not put them in a blind spot

The blind spot of the tray for small items is the edge facing you. Usually the ledge is a bit higher to keep items from falling out. If you put a watch, ring or passport directly at this ledge you will not see it when you quickly glance at the tray because it is in the blind spot behind the ledge. By putting all of these items in the part of the tray farthest away from you will minimise this risk.

Lesson 4: Do not talk to others while you are in security check

Every time I did this I forgot something. Do not do this if you valuables are important to you. It is a recipe for disaster and believe it or not most security people actually do not appreciate a chat and just want to go things over with. I get that you are getting nervous and some people tend to get chatty when you are nervous but more often than not it will not help your case.

Lesson 5: Leave people in security checks alone

This goes out to all you loving girlfriends / partners out there who just want to help your helpless stupid little boyfriend. DON’T. It will just annoy him anyway and also, even though it is entirely his own fault if he forgets his watch, you did not help him by taking over and removing things from the tray for him. It will mess with his routine and distract him from what he was about to do. Keep yourself busy with your own security check in and once he is dressed and has his bag packed quickly check his trays without him noticing when he moves to the vending machine, toilet or next seat. Present the corpus delicti if he forgot something with a smile and wait for the box of chocolates or drink he will bring as a thank you to arrive. Don’t belittle him by butting in and making him feel like an idiot (even though you would be perfectly entitled to) it just saves you hassle. Believe me this is the way better approach. I have seen too many couples fighting about “Traygate” at airports, me included.

Lesson 6: Once you realise you lost your watch trace back where you lost it

I can only tell you about lesson 1 – 5 because I directly traced back where I lost it (in the tray at the security check in, as you may have guessed by now). I quickly took a note about the time, gate, date, personnel and flight number once I realised which came in handy once I landed.

Lesson 7: Make an inquiry at the airport fast

The more time you lose on these things the less likely it will be that people will remember the item at the airport. Even if it gets a reference number and into the lost and found, the longer it stays there, the more likely it will be that it will be buried beneath other property or moved to the far corners of the storage room (especially when it is a very tiny thing like watch). The context will not be remembered of how and where it was lost and who found it. So once I landed I looked up the lost and found in Vienna and wrote them a detailed Email to make it as easy as possible for them to identify my watch and send it back to me. Luckily the Austrians seem to be good at these things and they had it labelled and send it back on a flight to Dublin.

Lesson 8: Take the insured option of direct mail to your door rather than the free option to the lost and found at your local airport

Here I took the wrong decision. When the lady said on the phone “your package will not be insured if you take the free option” my alarm bells should have gone off. But as I was so happy that my watch was found and I wanted to save myself the 30€ for postage I opted for free delivery to the Lost and found at Dublin airport. Not a particular smart move as you are basically sending your item to another pile of rubble of nameless items where it has yet to be found again… which was exactly what happened.

Lesson 9: Do not assume that the reference number from the sending airport has any meaning to the receiving airport.

Another example of “Assumptions are the mothers of all fuck ups” I conveniently assumed that there was a central reference number system of European airports to find lost and found or at least some filing mechanism from which airport the item came. Again I was wrong. The reference number of the Vienna lost and found had no meaning to the Dublin folks whatsoever. So for now my watch was yet again lost.

Lesson 10: Make your enquiries via phone, but still show up at the airport in person armed with information

Phone enquiries are not very helpful at Dublin airport. You will be routed in circles and not get through to an actual person. Do not expect anyone to get your stuff found by just phoning them. Usually people work long shifts and there is many people working there and it is just not possible to report all incoming baggage to the next person. I made most progress when I had notes about every single piece of information I had gathered and showed up in person at the airport. I had to do that twice.

Lesson 11: Be persistent

Once you know where your property is do not give up and keep pursuing it. Do not expect to get what you want on first enquiry. That is usually not the case when it comes to these things, as people are not getting commissioned on finding lost property for you. Stay calm, friendly and informed until you get what you want, if you already messed it up like I did. The problem won’t be solved in a day, but may be a week to a month and prepare yourself to that.

Lesson 12: Stay friendly with women, use some sternness with men

First in all of this the women were more helpful than the men, sorry. Secondly what I found to work best is to stay friendly and understanding with the women you talk to on the phone or at the desk and use a bit of your charm. It makes them more likely to help you. The guys… unfortunately it seems to work better with them if you let shine through that you think that they are lazy and that you will report them if they do not do anything. One of them actually barked down to me at the phone “Why would you phone me, if you had lost your property”, where I replied “Because this is the bleeding number they put on the website. If it routes to you that is not my fault and if you hate your job that is also not my problem. So put me through to someone who actually can or wants to help me as you clearly do not want to” after that it was actually a nice chat.


Watch on my wrist, should have listened to my girlfriend.