Striking gold with a hoard of lost property

March 4, 2015 Posted by admin

Boy looks at the front of the Fundsachenverkauf store

If you’ve ever lost anything while travelling through Switzerland and never seen it again, the chances are that it eventually passed through the hands of one man in Zurich.

“Every month we get 8,000 found objects,” says Roland Widmer, pulling down one of the bulging crates from the shelves of his shop in Zurich. “The most common item is glasses. We get around 20 pairs every day.”

Widmer is the greying, bespectacled director of Fundsachenverkauf (or Lost property sale), a company he set up in 2005 to relieve Switzerland’s mushrooming lost property departments.

So far, it’s been a successful enterprise. For each pallet that the 55-year-old receives from partners such as Zurich airport or the postal service, he pays a flat fee, and although there is a lot of junk, there is also plenty of treasure.

“At the moment, we have a diamond bracelet worth 26,000 francs (£17,600, $27,000) and a watch estimated at 36,000,” Widmer tells me.

Designer clothing, sunglasses, laptops and even musical instruments are also common finds in a country consistently ranked as one of the wealthiest in the world. Airports, especially, offer rich pickings.

“The quality is more expensive, a little nicer,” he says.

Glasses on a rack

Lost tricycle

Roland WidmerRoland Widmer, the founder of Fundsachenverkauf

In Switzerland, travellers have between one and three months to reclaim their lost property, depending upon its value.

Continue reading the main story

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It’s important to us that everything is clean, priced well, and that everyone knows what to do”

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Roland Widmer

“Below a value of 50 francs [£34, $52], objects are sent to the Fundsachenverkauf shop after one month,” says Donatella Del Vecchio, spokesperson for the Swiss rail company SBB.

“Beyond 50 francs, SBB will retain the item for three months, in accordance with the provisions of the Transport Act.”

More than 100,000 forgotten items were collected by SBB last year alone. Mobile phones, keys, hats and purses were among the most common.

It was in fact the SBB that kick-started Widmer’s unusual venture 10 years ago, after the railway operator put its lost property problem out to tender.

Widmer’s Fundsachenverkauf solution won the competition – and nearly two thirds of the items he receives still come from the railways. The rest come from airports, the postal service and buses.

Skateboards and books

After three months, people who have lost their belongings occasionally appeal to Widmer, and sometimes they are lucky.

“When we sell it they can’t have the item, but they can have the money,” he says, good-naturedly.

Some of his more unusual acquisitions have included a gallstone from the 1960s, a prison uniform, an urn, and a prosthetic leg. His favourite is a ring with poison inside (“And then you kill your husband!” he laughs).

Lost leg

Once in a while, Widmer finds it difficult to let go. “I collect very extraordinary pieces,” he says, with a smile. “One recent new addition is an assortment of brushes from a chimney sweep.”

In a back room at his Zurich store, three technicians are hard at work. All of the laptops and electronics here have their memories wiped, before being restored. Specialists are even on hand to fix jewellery and recycle items, creating new and unique pieces from broken rings, single earrings, scrap gold and pendants.

Roland Widmer

“With our business, we execute a very interesting form of recycling,” says Widmer. “Recycling is – today and for the future – very important.”

Some items are put up for sale at auction. Others go online, where a cursory click-through turns up a Bulgari ring for 14,999 francs, a handmade chessboard for 2,490 francs, and several gleaming MacBooks. Bongo drums and a harmonica are among the musical bargains to be had.

But it’s more fun to browse through the maze of odds and ends in the Zurich shop, where bicycles hang from the ceiling, gloves are clipped to clothes pegs, and, in one corner, a Venetian carnival mask watches over it all.

Carnival mask

Among the more expensive items in stock at the time of writing is a bracelet with a price tag of 15,000 francs, a 5,000-franc violin, a 9,000-franc Rolex, and a Quinting watch for 11,000 francs.

Some items are given away to charities.

Widmer proudly claims to adhere to Kaizen, a practice of continuous improvement that was originally introduced to the West by Japanese businessman Masaaki Imai. “When you receive up to 80,000 items per year, you have to have a good process,” he says. “It’s important to us that everything is clean, priced well, and that everyone knows what to do.”

Fundsachenverkauf has 18 employees, one of them Widmer’s wife, who oversees the finances.

“I wear the trousers and she tells me which ones,” he says.

Even with the occasional high-value finds, Fundsachenverkauf’s coffers are never overflowing, Widmer says. The value of the goods coming in is very unpredictable, which makes the business a precarious one.

He hopes for profits, but it is the thought of satisfied bargain hunters that truly makes him happy.

Meanwhile, the absent-minded can perhaps rest easy knowing that their lost possessions will enjoy a new lease of life.

Photographs by Robert Kopecky.

The Magazine in Switzerland


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(THE COURIER / Joshua Mashon)

March 3, 2015 Posted by admin

(THE COURIER / Joshua Mashon)


A few innovative pieces of technology in the Arkansas River Valley have been a step in halting the theft of scrap metal.

Several local recycling businesses, such as River Valley Recycling, Pearson Recycling and Cunningham Metals, use fingerprint technology to process customers in an effort to halt theft.

Although customer information is required to be recorded by law, these businesses are going a step further to deter the money-making scheme, such as the nearly 15 airconditioning coil thefts in the city of Russellville this past June.

Russellville Police Department Public Information Officer Drew Latch said the technology has helped prevent theft in the area.

“They are great partners with us anytime we need that information for theft on the scrap that was turned in,” Latch said.

“This is a great prevention tool for scrap metal theft.”

Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones said the enforcement of such technology has aided in the process of catching thieves.

“It’s a great tool for law enforcement,” Jones said. “All of the scrap yards are required by law to get proper identification and photograph the item and individual.”

Scrap metal is defined as pieces of metal parts that may be combined together with bolts or soldering and can be recycled when worn or superfluous, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

With the price of scrap metal continuing to rise, Jones said the technology, aided with community awareness, combats the popular crime.

“With the price of metal being high, unfortunately there will be thefts,” Jones said. “With the assistance of our citizens and the scrap metal business, we are able to counteract some of the criminal activity.”

The price per pound for aluminum radiators was reported at $1.45 in late January, according to Scrap Monster.

Brass scrap metal was listed as high as $2.46 per pound, while copper scrap metal was listed as high as $2.54 per pound.

For computer parts, processors weighed in at $26 per pound, while memory chips were valued at $10 per pound.

Scrap gold was valued up to $1,083 per ounce, and silver scrap metal was valued at $13.84 per ounce.

A recycling business must file a daily electronic report of scrap metal purchases, which must be entered into an automated database to be accessed by law enforcement, according to the Arkansas scrap metal statute outlined by the ISRI.

Furthermore, the database must send a report every seven days to the county sheriff and to any law enforcement agency that request periodic copies, as amended to the law in 2013.

Not only is committing the theft of scrap metal a crime, a person who aids or is an accomplice of the theft of property involving scrap metal is subject to the same penalties.

A person convicted of theft of scrap metal is prohibited from selling scrap metal after his conviction, and violations are subject to penalties up to $1,000 per violation.

Not only is the person who tries to sell stolen scrap metal subject to the law, the business who buys the scrap metal is at risk as well.

Theft by receiving of scrap metal can be committed if the person receives, retains, purchases or disposes of scrap metal if he knows or should have known the scrap metal was stolen.

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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins win in OT on the road

March 2, 2015 Posted by admin

HARTFORD,CT — Andrew Ebbett found his Hartford magic again in overtime.

In the four-on-four portion of overtime on their second shot, defenseman Brian Dumoulin sprung Ebbett free for a clean breakaway for his 13th of the season on Hartford goalie Yann Danis at 2:27 to give Wilkes Barre/Scranton a 3-2 win.

Ebbett scored twice last week the Penguins victory.

“It was a great play by Brian to make that pass and Tommy Kostopoulos winning the battle along the wall and Pierre Luc (Letourneau-Leblond) said during intermission be sure to go five hole,” he said. “I scored two last week the same spot so that’s all I was thinking going down.”

Ebbett has four game-winning goals this season, second highest on the team.

“You want to capitalize in overtime when when you have a chance,”Penguins head coach John Hynes said. “That was good to have a guy like Andrew with the puck on his stick on a breakaway.”

The Penguins boosted their third-best conference road record to 12-8-3-3 and go to Bridgeport Sunday afternoon to play the Sound Tigers who lost for the eigth time in a row in Springfield 3-0.

In a highly entertaining third period, the Wolf Pack tied the game up at two as Chris Mueller got between Penguins defenseman Taylor Chorney and Dumoulin and after deflecting the original shot by Mike Kostka from the right point buried the rebound for his second of the game and 10th of the season.

The goal came 28 seconds after the Wolf Pack’s Dylan McIlrath and the Penguins Letourneau-Leblond staged an old time Dennis Bonvie like good long scrap that started deep in the Wolf Pack defensive zone and ended up near the Penguins bench that clearly energized the Wolf Pack.

The Penguins broke the scoreless drought early in the second period as defenseman Reid McNeill drifting backwards toward the left point, took the puck off the boards and fired a shot on net. Hartford goalie Danis was completely screened by his own defenseman Sean Escobedo and was beaten shortside.

It was McNeill’s second of the season.

The Wolf Pack tied the game up on the games first power play just seven seconds into the man advantage.

The Penguins snapped the tie late on the power play as Jayson Megna put in the rebound off a Scott Harrington shot. The rebound went off Hartford defenseman Conor Allen’s skate and Megna got his stick between his legs and was able to flip it over the Hartford goalie. For Megna it was his 19th of the season with 8.6 seconds left in the period.

“That was an important goal for us,” Hynes said. “We knew power play would be important and it was good to answer back and naytime you can get a goal like that at the end of the period it always gives you momentum going intot he next period.”

NOTES: 1980 US Olympians Dave Silk and Steve Janazak were honored with the ceremonial puck drop and the home Hartford Wolf Pack wore USA jersey styled jerseys in honor of the 35th year of the US Olympic gold medal team at Lake Placid. … Mike Pomichter former WB Penguin stopped in to see former coach John Hynes and Tom Kostopoulos a teammate when he first turned pro in the mid-90’s.


Wilkes Barre/Scranton at Hartford

First Period — No Scoring. Penalties-Hartford-Allen- major (fighting) 9:38, WBS-Farnham major (fighting) 9:38

Second Period — W-B Scranton-McNeill 2 (Uher, Rowney) 1:54, Hartford-Mueller 9 (C. Bourque, Bodie) 6:00 PPG W-B Scranton-Megna 19 (Harrington, Chorney) 19:51 PPG. Penalties-W-B Scranton-Megna (tripping) 5:53, WB-Scranton-Megna (high sticking)14:27, Hartford-Crabb (interference) 18:15

Third Period — Hartford-Mueller 10 (Kostka, Vaive) 11:17. Penalties-Hartford-C. Bourque (interference) 3:37, WB-Scranton-Kostopulos (roughing) 4:12, Hartford-McIlrath (roughing) 4:12, W-B Scranton-Letourneau-Leblond major (fighting) 10:49, Hartford-McIlrath major (fighting) 9:49, W-B Scranton-McNeill (roughing) 13:26, Hartford-Lindberg (roughing) 13:26, Hartford-Spinnell (holding the stick) 15:20, Hartford-Vaive major (fighting) 18:56, W-B Scranton-McNeill major (fighting) 18:56.

Overtime — W-B Scranton-Ebbett 13 (Dumoulin) 2:27 Penalties-None. Shots On Goal — W-B Scranton-4-13-10-2-29 Hartford-8-12-10-1-31. Power Play Opportunities- W-B Scranton 1-3 Hartford- 1-2.

Goalies-WB-Scranton-Zatkoff 14-10-3 (31 shots-29 saves) Hartford-Danis 9-11-1 (29 shots-26 saves)

Referee: Evgeny Romasko

Linesman:Paul Simeon and Derek Wahl


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