The Ponemon Institute claims that over 12,000 laptops are lost every week in US airports, two-thirds of which are never recovered. In research sponsored by Dell Computer, which used the study’s findings as a key selling point for their new laptop tracking and recovery service, Ponemon surveyed airport officials at 106 major airports to come up with this headline-producing number. LAX tops the list with 1,200 misplaced laptops a week; Miami is second with 1,000. Extrapolating the study’s findings (12,255 laptops lost/week * 67% never recovered * 52 weeks/year) says that over 425,000 laptops are lost in US airports every year. With these numbers, you’d think that someone would’ve noticed the growing stack of laptops a bit sooner.
The second phase of the study surveyed 864 business travelers in “the airport environment”. Only 1% of these travelers had ever lost a laptop. You’d think with 425,000 of them lost every year, the surveyors would have a better hit rate. I’ve never lost a laptop and I don’t know anyone who has lost one in an airport. I know people who’ve had them stolen out of rental cars, who’ve left them in a plane’s overhead bin, but no one who has lost one in an airport.
One thing I have seen is people picking up the wrong laptop. At the back end of security screening, it can be a race to grab your PC before it gets pushed off the conveyor and onto the floor by the constant stream of gray bins burping out the TSA’s x-ray machine. More than a few times, I’ve seen someone grab a ThinkPad that doesn’t belong to them. Personalizing that black matte finish with a business card or a sticker or even a large gouge can help prevent a mistaken adoption. Of course, not having to pull your laptop out of your briefcase would be an even easier solution. Of the 864 business traveler surveyed, only 12% of them agreed that “checking my laptop or notebook computer separately from other carry-on tems increases passenger safety and security”.