Thanks to Amtrak for finding and returning my lost laptop

By | July 23, 2019

Last week, I left my laptop on a train when disembarking in Boston. Today, Amtrak called to tell me they’d found it and I could come to the station to pick it up. A big shout-out to Amtrak for doing the right thing. If you’re curious, read on for the whole story.

How did I leave my laptop on a train? As a detail-oriented person, I use routines and systems to avoid doing stupid things. Because I’m in the habit of using the seatback pocket on airplane flights, part of my deplaning routine includes checking the pocket for stuff.

Alas, I’m not in the habit of using the pocket on the train. When the person in the window seat next to me asked to get out right before we arrived in Boston, I had to get my laptop off of my tray and out of the way quickly so she could pass, so I shoved it in the pocket.

Then I started gathering all of my stuff in preparation for getting off the train. In the hubbub and chaos I forgot about the laptop, because “check the seatback pocket” isn’t part of my traveling-by-train routine. Well, wasn’t; it will be from now on!

I got off the train at Back Bay to catch a bus in Copley Square, and the train continued on to South Station. I realized about 15 minutes later that I’d left my laptop on the train, and I immediately took a Lyft to South Station to try to get there before the train left.

When I told my Lyft driver Frederick my story, he drove like a bat out of hell to get me to South Station as quickly as possible. For his heroic efforts I gave him a $10 tip on a $10 fare, but alas it was not enough; when I got there the train had departed with my laptop.

At the station, an Amtrak supervisor told me to file a lost-item report at chargerback.com. I did that, and four days later I got a call from Amtrak letting me know they’d found the laptop and asking me to provide identifying information to prove that it was mine.

In the interim Chargerback had sent me several status updates, so I didn’t feel like I was being ignored, though I admit to some skepticism about whether an automated process telling me Amtrak was still searching for my item really meant anything.

I’m impressed that Amtrak has a well-defined, established, working process in place for handling reports of lost items. Furthermore, my faith in humanity has been slightly restored by the knowledge that my laptop probably passed through several people’s hands on the way to Amtrak’s lost-and-found office, and any of them could have made the decision to keep it for themselves, instead all of them did the right thing.

P.S. Though I was worried about being out >$1,000 because of the lost laptop, I wasn’t worried about the data on the laptop being stolen, because I use a strong login password and full drive encryption. If you travel with a laptop with sensitive data on it, especially data that belongs to someone else like your employer, then make sure you’re using a good login password, your drive is encrypted, and guest accounts are disabled!

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