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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What I learned in the CBA booth

Disclaimer - I'm speaking for myself in this post and not representing CBA in any official way. Please don't take what I say about Lost and Found as total unalterable fact, as things might be done differently depending on the event and the people staffing the booth. This describes my personal experience only.

I spend various weekends during the summer volunteering for the CBA (California Bluegrass Association) in their membership booth during bluegrass festivals, old time campouts, and various other events.

There are many perks including:
  • Spending time with my mom (she works the booth with me)
  • Seeing FABULOUS musicians on stage, when I normally would be back at camp napping (the booth is always in the stage area).
  • Being able to meet and greet and help cute kids get started on the fiddle

But, by far the best perk of all is being able to manage the lost and found.....The look of joy and when someone comes to claim their diamond ring, or favorite sweatshirt, or brand new glasses and the eternal gratitude makes my day warm and fuzzy....I've been kissed, hugged, and thanked. I feel like the benevolent Santa Clause.

It's AMAZING what ends up in lost and found, and as you can imagine, I've learned a LOT on the do's and don't's of what to do so you can get your stuff back. This relevant far beyond the music festival scene and is very applicable to your horsey stuff.....

1. Electronics

Your phone/GPS/Nifty gadget-y thing has a place to put your name and contact info. DO IT! Probably only 20% of the cool electronics we get turned in has the contact information for the owner of the electronic filled out. If your phone/whatever doesn't have a place to enter your info, be creative - put an entry into your contact list that appears near the top and either says "owner" or "call if found". We lost and found people aren't going to go snooping into your personal data, but I will turn on every phone and look in 2 places - contact list and phone settings - to see if I can find your name, the phone's number, or any recently missed calls that show up as "Dad" or "Mom" etc. I might call your home number hoping to get an answering machine that states your last name so I can announce it on stage. If you call your number, trying to find your phone, I might answer it (if I can figure out your fancy phone). If it's another nifty gadget, like an instrument tuner or GPS, write your name in permanent marker on the device. Yes it looks dorky, but don't you want it back if you drop it?

2. Keys

First of all, why do you need to carry your ring of bazillion keys while you are at the music festival or other event? What essential keys do you ACTUALLY need at an event? Assume that any key you carry will fall out of your pocket and get lost. Plan for it. If it's a day trip and you brought your vehicle, then the only key you need to carry is a car key. Leave your gazillion work keys and your house key in your vehicle. BTW - if your vehicle key has a remote, lost and found has been known to go around, randomly clicking it to see if we can find your vehicle, so we can return your keys, if it's near the end of the event and you haven't checked with us to pick them up......If you are camping at the event, leave your car key somewhere safe in your camp and again - why are you carrying your huge ring of work and home keys??????? Another tactic is to put your name and phone number on your key ring - this is normally NOT a safe practice, but if you are at an event where you trust most of the people AND you insist on carrying around a bunch of non-replaceable keys, it might be worth the risk.

3. Money

Don't carry around any more money than you can afford to lose. And certainly don't carry it around in one big chunk. Yes, you brought $500 of spending money for the weekend - do you really need to carry the whole roll with you from camp to the vendor area to buy a hot dog? How about just carrying a few 20's? Or split the roll up in various locations - different pockets, different bags. Every year some one finds a big roll of $$ and turns it in, and even more people come to tell us they lost a big roll of $$. BTW - it's not easy to convince us lost and found people that the twenty that got turned in is YOUR 20. Be prepared to tell us when and where you lost it, and the exact dollar amount so we can compare that what was turned in. Consider putting a slip of paper in with your money that has your name or something so if you DO lose and it, and by some miracle it gets turned it, you have a way of proving the $$ is yours.

4. We don't release items to just anyone....

If you lose a check book and your brother-in-law comes to claim it for you......we are NOT going to hand it over. Sorry. But we will make a personal delivery if your brother-in-law tells us where you are and you can't come over for some reason. We take your possessions very seriously and want to make sure they get back to YOU. Lesser valued items like sweat shirts and water bottles might be given out to a representative, but plan on collecting more valuable or personal items (wallets, checkbooks, jewelry, expensive electronics) yourself.

5. ID everything you have.

You would not believe how many expensive instruments in cases get turned in every year. Without even a SHRED of identification on them. Throw a business card into the case. Fill out a index card with the information of "if lost and found then contact...." . Apply this reasoning to ALL your big ticket items, even if you think there is NO WAY you will ever forget them somewhere. I bet that person with the expensive guitar thought that too.....put ID tags on your saddle, your case, your instrument, your favorite chair, or your icechest. Throw a business card (these are great because then you don't have to worry about people getting access to your personal address or phone number) into every bag and case.

6. Attachment

If you do have something you HAVE to carry around and cannot under any circumstance lose, then attach it to your body and then do NOT unclip it EVER. Examples are keys and wallets and glasses. If it's jewelry, don't take it off. Do not take off your ring to wash your hands in the bathroom sink. This is not your home and if you accidentally leave it on the counter for a few minutes as you wander off, the results will probably not be as pretty. If you can't wash your hands with it on, then carry a little bottle of sanitizer. Trust me.

7. Give thanks

Us lost and found people live for your thanks. It MAKES our day to be able to return items to you. We sit around and have conversations like "I hope that person with the mini-disc player comes to pick it up - they are going to be so HAPPY", or "this looks like a well-loved toy - I hope the parent checks in with us so that child can have their special bear back!". At the CBA, we usually record the name of the person that turned in the item (and where they found it). Feel free to ask - we'll give you that info if possible. Most people who turn stuff in are doing it because they feel it's the right thing to do and aren't expecting to every hear from you, but they might appreciate a phone call or a thanks if you feel up to it.


  1. Totally unrelated fact- CBA also stand for Certified Bad Ass. You become a CBA when you get your 'papers' for doing something really awesome and difficult, like finishing a 100 mile ride or a marathon. Especially applicable if done in poor weather or other undesirable circumstances.

  2. HEATHER: I am *definitely* a Certified Bad Ass, hooray--I've finished a 100-miler AND a marathon (okay, I walked the marathon, but I did every step of 26.2!). I feel so powerful now!

    MEL: I put a skull and crossed bones on everything that I take to camp, including the cooler, the hay bags, my saddle, my easyboot, and my horse! With that little symbol, everybody knows where to bring stuff if it gets separated from me. Tee hee.

  3. I still can't figure out how you'd lose a saddle. Mine says Corey Thomas under the pommel - I suppose that was the first owner, years ago. If Corey and I are at a ride together I guess I'm screwed :o

  4. This was a great post Melinda. I remember working at the booth last year, and you're right! There are especially particular items that we really hope ppl get back. The phones are hilarious, especially some of the modern ones that I don't even know how to open or turn on lol


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