Josef Rankl has many stories to tell when you ask him about the strangest item he held in his hands in his 30 years as head of the lost and found office at Munich Airport. “Once a goldfish was found in a carrier and fed to keep it going.” There were no living finds in 2021, but Rankl observed: “People are flying more again now, so they lose more.” Almost 200 of these finds were auctioned off at the Lohhofer Volksfest in Unterschleißheim on Saturday – each of them has its own story that one can speculate on.
According to Rankl, passengers leave around 50,000 items on the premises and in the airport buildings every year. Everything is kept for the statutory period of six months. “During this time we’re trying to find the owners. Sometimes that’s a bit like profiling,” says Rankl with a laugh. The owner can be found for many pieces, but even then it is too much effort for some to pick up the piece or have it sent to them. In these cases, or if nobody reports, the finds become the property of the airport.
The airport regularly auctions all the forgotten and uncollected items. According to Rankl, the auctions take place five times a year on average. Alfred Mittermeier has already taken on several auctions as an auctioneer and, he says, is always fascinated by the eagerness with which visitors now and then duel over coveted pieces. Usually nothing is left behind: the low minimum bid of five or ten euros means that the inhibition threshold is low, “there is a buyer for every piece.” Part of the proceeds will be donated to social causes.
Before the finds are auctioned off, Rankl and his team carefully examined them. “We have to do that for privacy reasons.” If, for example, a tablet or camera with private photos is found, this data must be professionally cleaned before the device goes to a new owner. “We also have an ethos that we don’t auction dirty or broken stuff,” Rankl said. In addition to newly packed themed suitcases – they contain forgotten shoes, scarves or clothing – items of luggage that were found in exactly the same way are also auctioned off. “People are always excited about the surprise and the wicked,” says Rankl. Because with the suitcases, the bidders do not know beforehand what is inside. Nevertheless, they are hotly contested, with one the duel only ends at 130 euros.
Why spend so much money on a surprise? Philipp Schubert, who is holding the suitcase as the highest bidder, laughs. Before the pandemic, he had already taken part in the airport auctions more often and had already experienced with the mysterious suitcases that the high price paid off. In the tent, however, he does not want to open his prey until he is at home, if he wants to enjoy the excitement.
Individual pieces are also up for auction, “everything that stays put,” says Rankl. “From wedding rings to necklaces, from cameras to diving fins.” Marcus Franchini, for example, was lucky: for just 90 euros, the snowboarder got hold of a complete set of equipment including a board, boots and gloves. With some of the offers, of course, you ask yourself: Who forgets something like that? “For example, we have the classic in our luggage: the chainsaw,” jokes Rankl. Five of them will be auctioned off at the folk festival. Windshield wipers, strollers and a weight lifting belt are also looking for new owners.
Probably the strangest find allows the most bizarre fantasies to flourish: a wedding dress, decorated with delicate lace and shimmering sequins, looks strangely alien in the hearty atmosphere of the beer tent. As Rankl explains, such special pieces of clothing are more often forgotten: a while ago he was even able to get one to the owner just in time for the wedding.
Not so the specimen auctioned on Saturday: “Someone must have changed their mind and the wedding in Las Vegas didn’t take place,” Rankl speculates. For 80 euros, the wedding dress and accessories go to a young woman. The buyer, however, does not intend to get married anytime soon, she says – her bid had other reasons: when inspecting the pieces, she discovered that a Louis Vuitton purse was being auctioned off with the dress. The dress itself is a minor matter and will probably be resold: “It looks small, I don’t think it would fit me at all.”
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