March 22, 2001 Vol . 20, No. 6

Lost something? Ask Gordon

By Julie Ovenell-Carter

Gordon Scheurer (right) has skeletons in his closet, not to mention coats, hats, bags, bikes and just about every kind of umbrella imaginable.

In his seven years on the job, SFU's lost-and-found clerk has seen a steady rise in the amount of lost property turned in to the security department on Burnaby Mountain. "People are getting more careless with their stuff. We average about 500 items a month now," says Scheurer, "everything from key rings to diamond rings."

And while his storeroom doesn't contain actual skeletons, it does have an impressive assortment of anatomy textbooks. Spring and fall are the busiest seasons for the lost and found, because people are more likely to leave coats, mitts, and umbrellas behind during transitional weather.

Scheurer carefully inventories every item as it is turned in, often by cleaning people or campus security officers. He holds clothing for a month ("it starts to smell," he says), and everything else, for 90 days.

After that, he donates some unclaimed items to charity, and retains others for the lost-and-found sale held in the AQ each September during clubs week. "We usually make between $2,000 and $4,000 for the university," he says.

About half of all lost items are eventually claimed, especially if they're valuable. But sometimes, despite Scheurer's best efforts, a real treasure remains unclaimed. Several summers ago, a visitor left two gold bracelets valued at $11,000 in the residences.

After months of fruitless searching for the owner, Scheurer invited the campus community to bid on the bracelets.

"I took the highest closed bid, and some lucky guy walked off with them for substantially less than they were worth." Scheurer says people who lose something on campus "shouldn't get discouraged if it doesn't turn up right away."

He cites the example of the woman whose purse was returned to her 18 years after it was stolen on campus.

"Five years ago, some electricians found her purse stashed under a false ceiling panel in one of the washrooms. When I tracked her down, she wanted to know if there was an address book in the purse, and when I told her yes, she let out this giant scream and started crying. Turns out all her childhood friends were in that address book. It's stuff like that that make this job worthwhile."


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