Prevent camera or cell phone loss!

This is probably a little off topic, but can save you a bunch of money and grief! We all seem to have cameras these days, many times coupled with cell phones. And since we travel, we take a lot of pictures and depend on our devices for other communications. Most of the time we are just as emotionally lost as our devices when we can’t find them!

For instance, if we have pictures on there of our progress on our van conversion work, they’re irreplaceable once the work is completed! You can’t tear it apart to start over just for the sake of pictures!

This idea was triggered by what Glenn Morrissette at http://to has been going through for the past few days. His camera came up missing, and it could happen to anyone. Photographs are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable items, but beyond that, many of these devices are downright expensive!  Many of us have misplaced or lost our cell phones or cameras, and if we haven’t yet, or think that it can’t happen, it’s probably only a matter of time. And the smaller they are, the more likely they will get lost or dropped. So I commented on his blog with this tip…

First use your computer to create a “slide” of sorts, on some kind of word processing program. We all have them in one form or another, whether it be Word, Powerpoint, Impress, or some other program. Just bring up a new page full-screen and type a nice neat “sign” in large letters that will fill the screen something like:

“This camera / phone belongs to:
Return postage guaranteed!
Reward offered for return!”

(of course, use your own web site or blog name), and then take a picture of the slide with your camera or phone, making it fill the viewing screen as much as possible. Save the slide on your computer, because on most devices, every time you download pictures it will remove what was on the device, and then all you have to do is pull up the saved file and take the picture again. Make it a habit every time you download.

Remember if you use a phone to take pictures, it won’t do any good to put your cell phone number on there, because they won’t have any way to call you! (DUH!) However, you could do that if it is just a camera. If you have a toll free number, use that. They’re harder to trace, gives no clue as to where it’s registered, and makes it even easier for them to contact you.

Additionally create a slide of yourself with the caption “me” on it, as well as a photo of whatever you drive. If you have more than one vehicle, such as an RV and a tow car, then put a picture of both of them on there, with captions like “my ride”. You could even make sure your license plate number is in the picture. The whole world sees it already, so I doubt if it’s going to be a “privacy” worry. If you are going to be in an area for awhile, try to get a local landmark in the sign, like an RV park sign, a local public park sign or some clue as to where you are staying.

That way, you have three chances of someone finding you. Most people won’t know enough to search the setup on a cell phone to see if the owner is listed (if it even is), and there is no setup on most cameras. But they will almost always look at what pictures are on it. If they haven’t seen you OR your ride, then there will be a third picture of your contact information. DO NOT use an email address! If the phones should get in the hands of the wrong person, you could end up with a lot of junk mail. If you don’t have a web site or blog, then use some other permanent address or your Post Office Box or mail drop. Don’t use a physical home address! If they know you are out traveling, they could have friends in your home town, and you could lose more than your camera!

You should ALWAYS use contact forms on web sites or blogs, and have them protected with a captcha form to prevent spammers and their automated robots from searching for and harvesting such things from web sites and blogs, and sending you junk.  Don’t even put your email address in the html language! The robots will find it!  (I know, I need to put a captcha form on this blog yet, as I am getting a LOT of spam comments! It’s coming!)

In the remote chance that someone may purposely want to keep your device, then you’re out of options, but just as in traveling the world and meeting new people every day, we have to hope that the majority of them are honest. And having the proper contact information on the device will increase the odds of the finder being able to find YOU, hopefully before you leave the area! The sooner you get your device back, the better. So make it easy to return! If you have already left the area by the time they contact you, then assure them that it is still worth their time to get it back to you!

Maybe a cheap phone with garbage pictures isn’t worth returning. But some phones can cost in the hundreds of dollars and good cameras can be well over a thousand! But besides that, what are irreplaceable pictures worth? Make your reward commensurate with the value of what was misplaced. Usually a 10-25% reward of the face value is sufficient, but if you think it’s worth more, then offer it. What would it cost you to go back and retake those pictures, even if you could? If you don’t state a reward value, then it’s negotiable, but make it realistic and worth the time and effort of the finder. If they are willing to mail it back to you, then they should be able to send it COD, one way or the other. If you have a UPS or other carrier account, they can have it billed to that. There’s always a way.

Too many of us lay our devices and even our vehicle keys around for anyone to pick up. It’s a bad habit for all, just because we don’t want to “bulk up” our pockets or secure things to our belts. But there are ways to protect ourselves from loss… if we’ll just take the time to do it!

What other ideas do you have for not only hanging onto such things, but getting people to go out of their way to find you to return them?