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Left Behind Backpack

Hi EH, I have a question for your readers (but first the back-story):

This weekend, as a favor for letting us crash at her place for the night, my boyfriend and I helped my friend move the last load of clothing and trinkets from her old apartment to her new apartment. She drives a scooter, so we were happy to be able to help by doing it all in one trip with our car. In the commotion of putting stuff in the car and getting our own overnight items packed back in the car as well, my friend’s large (brand new) camping backpack stuffed with clothes was inadvertently left on the side of the road, missed by all three of us. She realized a day later that it was missing, only to return to find it gone–not in the apartment, not with the neighbors and definitely no longer outside by the tree it had been propped up on. Someone out there now has a fantastic new hiker’s backpack and lots of women’s clothing.

I feel terrible about the situation and feel like I should contribute money to help make up for the loss of half of my friend’s clothing–after all, we all should have been on the lookout. My boyfriend says we are not at fault and doesn’t agree that we owe anything (that said, he is acquiescing to my request and we are donating equal amounts of money; it’s not much, but it’s all we can afford). To be clear, my friend as not made any request for reimbursement, I just feel this is the right thing to do.

I will be giving the money regardless, but I’m curious as to your readers’ opinions on how to handle this situation.

Thanks for your help, EH! 0710-12

Unless you or your boyfriend were specifically charged with the responsibility to oversee that the backpack made it into the moving vehicle, I don’t feel you are obligated to replace the item. Mistakes happen and in this case, the backpack’s owner overlooked it.

{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Ellie July 16, 2012, 6:50 am

    OP, you are not legally responsible for replacing anything. That said, this is a friend and I assume since you felt comfortable both crashing at her place, and helping her move, that this is a friend of whom you are fond. She has now suffered a material loss, even if it is her own fault. I see nothing untoward in giving her a monetary gift (without talking about any responsibility for the loss, yours or hers) to perhaps make things easier for her.

  • Green123 July 16, 2012, 7:12 am

    Mistakes happen, and it was not your responsibility to look out for anyone’s belongings except your own.
    Your friend should report the loss to the police though – clearly someone has stolen it from the side of the road*! She may also be able to file an insurance claim once she has a police crime number – obviously this won’t replace her actual clothes and bag, but will go some way to helping to buy replacements.

    (*as an aside, it may be worth looking in local goodwill / thrift stores – it’s possible someone hasn’t stolen the bag but has taken it in ggod faith and donated it and its contents to the local charity shop!)

  • Chicalola July 16, 2012, 7:20 am

    I agree that you are not obligated to reimburse her, but I think it speaks volumes of you as a person that you want to. Maybe present it as a….”I’m sorry this happened, let me help” type of gift. I would be grateful for a friend like you!

  • The Elf July 16, 2012, 7:23 am

    Technically, the backpack wasn’t stolen. It was abandoned property.

    You owe nothing, and thankfully your friend is forgiving. But your gesture to help replace the items is wonderful, and will surely be remembered by the recipient.

  • ferretrick July 16, 2012, 7:42 am

    I don’t think you owe anything-if you were professionals being paid, than certainly, yes you would discount the job or otherwise reimburse the customer for the loss. But you aren’t-you were volunteers doing a friend a favor, and it’s regrettable, but ultimately it’s her job to take care of her own stuff. Totally understandable that in the chaos it got overlooked, but at the same time, she’s the one that should have made a thorough final check before you left the area. If you want to give her some money to help her out, sure, go ahead, but I don’t see any legal/moral/etiquette obligation to do so.

  • Lacey July 16, 2012, 7:56 am

    If I were your friend, I would be upset, but would think it was my fault for forgetting my own backpack and would not expect any reimbursment. Wouldn’t blame the friends who helped me move (a huge favour, btw, much more effort involved than letting someone crash at your place for a night) at all.

  • David July 16, 2012, 8:23 am

    You are not responsible for replacing the backpack or her clothing, but what a kind and thoughtful thing for you and your boyfriend to do.

  • Leah July 16, 2012, 8:35 am

    If you aren’t comfortable giving her an envelope of cash, perhaps a gift card to one of her favorite clothing stores?

  • Cat July 16, 2012, 8:41 am

    I’d check the local pawn shop before I checked Goodwill. One donates ones own possessions to Goodwill. “Finders Who Decide to be Keepers” tend to go for money; and a brand new backpack would bring a couple of bucks. The clothes may be in a dumpster or on someone else. Anyone else puts a notice on the tree, “I found your backpack. Call ***-**** and describe contents to claim.”or turns it over to the police on the off-chance the owner was a victim of a crime-hitchhiker is kidnapped, that sort of thing.
    As to your question, I think your donating part of the cost is more of a gesture of friendship and of goodwill rather than a legal requirement. It’s rather like someone’s home burning down and you sending them some money to help them out. You didn’t cause the fire, but you want to help.

  • Spotted Pony July 16, 2012, 8:43 am

    You could put an ad in the paper offering a reward for the return of the backpack and its contents. Or go back and ask the neighbors if they’ve seen it or have it. A neighbor may be waiting for your friend to come back and and ask about it.

  • Carol July 16, 2012, 9:03 am

    I don’t think you should feel obligated to help out, but I think doing it out of kindness, because you like your friend, and she, I pursume, has the kind of budget where she can’t replace everything she lost right away. It’s a generous and kind thing to do, and that I think is reason enough to help out as much as you can.

    I do agree she should report the loss, as the person who took it obviously didn’t think ‘oh, that belongs to someone, they will be coming for it,’ or ‘Someone lost something, I should go see if it belongs to someone in this apartment building’ etc. They just thought ‘oh, look, free things!’ That’s stealing, to my mind.

    And it’s possible someone took it while you were packing up the car, in which case it WAS stolen, not forgotten.

  • KMC July 16, 2012, 9:07 am

    I agree, I don’t think you hold any responsibility. It’s nice of you to offer money to help your friend, but if I were her, I would not accept it. My belongings are my responsibility and when they get lost, that’s my expense to bear. Unless someone is borrowing them at the time, or they are stolen, I wouldn’t expect to be reimbursed.

    Green123, I doubt the police could do much. I’m not sure the backpack could be considered stolen if it was found on the side of the road. It may at that point be considered abandoned property. I’m not positive of that, though.

  • Katie July 16, 2012, 9:31 am

    There is no way you are responsible for this. That’s what insurance is for! It was your friend’s responsibility to ensure that all her bags were loaded up before you set out. If you were a taxi firm, they wouldn’t be liable, and nor should you be. I can understand why you feel bad, but I think it would be wrong of your friend to accept anything for this.

  • jena rogers July 16, 2012, 9:40 am

    @Green123. Depending on where the item was placed, “stolen” may be too strong a word. It may have appeared to have been left out by where trash is normally left, giving the impression it was up for grabs. I think OP and her beau are genuinely thoughtful to consider offering money; were I in the property owner’s position I would not expect any compensation from my friends, and probably would refuse any offers unless I were left destitute. Ultimately, the owner was responsible for keeping track of her belongings.

  • Emily July 16, 2012, 10:18 am

    Thanks for the advice, everyone–I’m so relieved to say that this story has a happy ending!

    After a thorough search at the old apartment and surrounding area and finding nothing, my dear friend returned a second time to post a “Lost” sign and what does she find? A “FOUND” sign right where we left the bags! Turns out a neighbor found them and kept them for safekeeping.

    All’s well that ends well!!

  • amyasleigh July 16, 2012, 10:35 am

    I’m very glad. So nice to hear — as one sometimes does — such a narrative, where people do the right thing. Good to realise that it isn’t always “folk will steal everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot of things that are”.

  • gramma dishes July 16, 2012, 10:56 am

    Wonderful (and encouraging) update!

  • Mabel July 16, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Yay for the neighbor who found it!

  • Library Diva July 16, 2012, 1:57 pm

    I don’t think you owed your friend anything, but I do think the gesture you were about to make until the backpack was rescued was very nice and also appropriate. If it had been me who lost the backpack, I would have appreciated it very much, probably refused the money unless I desperately needed it (like if I was down to a couple of days worth of clothes and only had $50 in my bank account), and would have taken much comfort in learning that I had something more valuable than money — a friend who truly valued me and cared about my wellbeing.

  • Pam July 16, 2012, 2:15 pm

    Feel good MONDAY!!! : ) And yes, even though you didn’t owe your friend money, and now the backpack is found, the gesture of helping out is what a good friendship is all about.

  • Spike July 16, 2012, 2:17 pm

    I agree with admin. It was her item and therefore her responsibility, though it was considerate of you to be “on the lookout.” It’s nice of you to think of reimbursing her, but I don’t think it would really be right for her to take the money (unless like Library Diva said, if it was like ALL my clothes, and even then only as a loaner).

  • WrenskiBaby July 16, 2012, 3:29 pm

    In my opinion, helping out a friend who has had a loss is never incorrect. And I’m glad her items were returned to her.

  • Kimstu July 16, 2012, 3:52 pm

    This has got to be a first: an EH story that has no etiquette violations at all! In fact, everyone involved, from the LW to the friend who lost the backpack to the neighbor who found it and kept it for safekeeping, behaved in an exemplary manner. Congratulations all around and here’s to restored faith in humanity!

  • Cat Whisperer July 16, 2012, 9:59 pm

    I’m happy to hear that the backpack turned up. All’s well that ends well.

    Word of advice: this is the sort of thing that might be covered under an insurance policy: possibly your car insurance, possibly your or the friend’s renters/homeowner’s insurance. Now that the dust has settled and there’s a happy ending to this story, it would be a good time for everyone concerned (OP, OP’s boyfriend, and the friend who they helped move) to each separately look at whatever insurance policies they own and become acquainted with their coverage. (Or, if nobody has any coverage, to think about maybe getting some.)

    While it’s possible that the loss might not have been covered, or that it might have been less than the deductible for whatever insurance policy might apply, or you might not have wanted to put in a claim, this incident is a good “tickler” to make you think about insurance and what it might cover. Just a thought.

  • Electric Blue July 17, 2012, 1:02 am

    No you do not owe your friend anything.

    And while I think you are a kind hearted person for offering money to help her replace her missing goods beware….being too kind hearted and giving too much will attracted nothing but gimmie pigs into your life.

    All the best.

  • elle July 17, 2012, 2:10 am

    You sound lovely. Keep it up. And yes, the gift card some of the other posters have suggested sounds like a great idea.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith July 17, 2012, 2:52 am

    Love a happy ending! Many thanks, OP, for the update: good luck to your friend in her new place and to both you and the neighbor who found the bag(s) and cared enough to help- what a great way to start the week!

  • Green123 July 17, 2012, 3:42 am

    @KMC and @jena rogers. I’m not suggesting the police should be investigating this as a crime – however without a police crime number, most insurance companies won’t accept a claim for property which is lost or stolen, so it’s in the OP’s friend’s interest to report it as a matter of procedure.

  • The Elf July 17, 2012, 6:27 am

    What a great ending to the story!

  • Ann July 17, 2012, 11:46 am

    What a good neighbour — and what good friends your friend has. You were under no obligation to help her re-outfit herself, but it was sweet of you to want to.

  • claire kellock July 25, 2012, 12:29 am

    I think I would be lucky to have the OP as a friend. I am in the same mind; whatever the legal situation, I would feel terrible and help my friend out.

  • claire kellock July 25, 2012, 12:33 am

    What a refreshing and lovely attitude by the OP and her friends. In fact, there are so many positive and caring posts on this page that we all deserve to feel good!! Great Stuff

  • Enna July 30, 2012, 12:08 pm

    That’s good the bag was found – I was going to suggest maybe checking at a local police station as someone may have handed it in there.

  • Shnon October 3, 2012, 9:47 am

    Not necessary, but a nice gesture.

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