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Conference Trip Spawns Solution for Lost and Found, Left Behind Items


givingbag123 NATIONAL REPORT—Several years ago, Lilia Karimi attended a conference in Las Vegas. It was there that she had too many conference giveaways and pieces of clothing to fit in her carry-on suitcase. “We wanted to just leave the items in the room and hope that an employee would keep them, but being a student from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA), we knew that if we just left the unwanted items in the room, they would end up in the lost and found for three to six months even though there was no intention of claiming them,” Karimi says. She thought it did not seem fair to anyone. It was a waste of hotel employees’ time logging these items in the lost and found, and it was a waste of items that could benefit someone in need.

Out of her experience on her trip was born the idea for “Giving Bag,” the winning concept in the third annual Cornell student sustainability competition in 2013. Karimi and Quinn Cox, both students at SHA at the time, won the first-place prize of $2,000. They sought to solve an expensive problem for hotels—what to do with lost and left-behind items. Their research determined that about 20 percent of the items left in guestrooms are intentionally left behind. By providing a bag for guests to stash these items, hotels could easily donate them to charity.

Three years after winning the Cornell student sustainability competition, Giving Bag has taken flight and is now in hotels around the world, including The Statler Hotel on Cornell’s campus in Ithaca, N.Y. Giving Bag is a burlap bag made in Seattle. Attached to the bag is a card that explains the program. Where the bag is placed in the guestroom can vary. “We give control to the hotel,” Karimi says. The closet is a logical place for it. “The guest will place something in the bag,” she adds. “The housekeeper will collect the items and then coordinate with a charity for pickup.”

Karimi and her partner on the venture, Quinn Cox, can assist with charity selection and coordination. “We want to get them in as many rooms as possible,” Karimi says. “It is a necessary thing for hotels.”

Bag cost varies from $3.00 to $7.00 per bag and depends on quantity and location. The bags are reusable. Karimi recommends having at least three bags per room on hand. The cards attached to the bags can be customized with a property’s logo.

Karimi can be contacted at lilia@givingbag.co.