WASHINGTON — It’s a thought that strikes fear into the hearts of many of a tech-obsessed urban traveler. A few minutes after exiting a taxi, you pat your pocket and feel an unfamiliar emptiness. Your smartphone isn’t there and the taxi has already sped off down the street!
Losing your phone — or wallet or keys — in a cab or ride-hailing service is one of the 21st century’s minor miseries. But don’t panic. There are steps you can take to retrieve your items. And as it turns out, popular high-tech ride-hailing services that are powered by mobile technology, such as Uber and Lyft, actually make getting your lost phone a little easier.
The good thing about losing an item in an Uber (if you can call anything about losing your phone good) is even if you don’t know or can’t remember your driver’s name or the name of the taxi company — Uber remembers for you.
First, navigate to Uber.com/lost. You can access this from a computer or a friend’s smartphone, but you’ll need to log in to your own account to contact your driver. (If you lost another item, such as your keys or wallet and still have access to your phone, you can access this feature from the Uber app directly from the “Help” section).
Once you’re logged in, Uber will display your most recent trip. If that’s the trip during which you lost your phone or other item, enter a phone number that you can use to contact your driver. Uber will call that number and then connect you directly with your driver.
From there, you can check with the driver to make sure you did, in fact, leave your item in your Uber and not at the bar or in the couch cushions of the third holiday party you attended that night — and then coordinate a time with the driver to return your misplaced item.
If the driver doesn’t pick up, you should leave a detailed voicemail message, and Uber says to be prepared to wait as long as 24 hours to hear back from the driver. If you still haven’t heard back, you can contact the Uber support team.
Lyft, another popular ride-hailing app, also allows riders to contact drivers about lost items. However most of those options require you to use the Lyft app — and, therefore, still have your phone with you.
Without your phone, you can message your driver via the emailed ride receipt documenting your trip. So, open your email and look for the message for your most recent ride receipt. At the bottom of the email, click “Find lost item.” One wrench in this plan is that you typically only get ride receipts after you’ve rated your driver at the end of your trip. If you left your phone in the Lyft before you got out, you probably haven’t received the ride receipt email message.
In that case, you can contact Lyft directly through its “contact us” page.
You’ll want to provide Lyft with a phone number you can be reached at; your driver name or the time and date of the ride; and a description of the lost item.
The Lyft website has more details about using the Lyft app to contact a driver about a lost item.
Items left in D.C. taxis are supposed to be turned over by drivers to the D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles (the new name for the D.C. Taxicab Commission).
Good luck. Unlike with Uber and Lyft, the department has no idea what cab you were in on your way home from the club last Saturday or the name of the driver. And if you notify the department of a lost phone, you’ll be asked to turn over a bunch of very specific information about your phone that you may not readily have.
If you’re reporting a lost phone, the department wants to know: the model, serial number, the 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity number, and the phone number and even the PIN number.
The department also will ask if you know your driver’s name, the driver’s Face ID number and the vehicle license plate number.
Some of these details may be a little … fuzzy. Still, do your best to provide as much information as you can.
You can report a missing item 24 hours a day at 855-484-4966 or fill out this online form.
If an item matching your description is turned in, the department will contact you. All items not claimed within five days are turned over to the property division of the D.C. police. At that point, you’ll have to call them at 202-727-3230.