The New Year is a time to forgive and forget – but it’s the latter that British drivers specialise in. Simon Hacker rummages through some oddball discoveries…
A false leg and a pair of fluffy handcuffs are perhaps not the first items you reach for when packing the car for a long weekend away or a holiday, but according to car rental firm Europcar, you may need to think again. These disparate oddities came top in an extraordinarily long list of bizarre belongings left unclaimed and unwanted in the luggage space of their UK hire cars. But if you think those two items are weird, wait until you read what other gems their cleaners have unearthed from the firm’s huge fleet of 215,000 cars.
CDs and sunglasses are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most ‘popular’ forgotten items, along with umbrellas. But staff at Europcar’s Liverpool branch tell me nothing prepared them for the shock of the prosthetic leg: “We have a wide range of cars designed for every occasion, but judging by some of the things we find some stories are better left untold,” a spokesman said. Attempts to reunite items with their assumed owners can also lead to all sorts of unforeseen problems. The false leg, in the event proved not too tricky to, er, trace back to its rightful owner. But sometimes an item that appears innocuous can be more problematic…
In another instance, Europcar found a pair of ladies shoes under the passenger seat of a car returned to a regular customer. They rang his home, but his wife answered and said the shoes did not belong to her. The red-faced staff explained that they had probably been left by a previous customer. Luckily, his wife was very understanding and he laughed about it next time he came in. All the same, it’s an object lesson in making sure the hire car you drive away in doesn’t come with bizarre extras that could lead to awkward questions after you’ve returned the keys.
It seems Europcar customers have liberal amounts of cash to flash, considering staff at several branches have variously found: £1,000 worth of designer clothes left behind, £600 worth of House of Fraser vouchers and various wodges of cash. Perhaps the item to set minds boggling most is that set of furry handcuffs, left in a car at the Yeovil branch – but equally strange discoveries beg the question: what are these people doing? In the firm’s Hamilton branch, 50 light bulbs and a Scottish Piper’s black ostrich hat topped the list of oddball items, while the Exeter office’s discovery suggested some things may even be being left behind deliberately: staff there dislodged a cooked sausage – not from the cabin but from behind the engine. Presumably the punter had been trying a spot of under-bonnet cuisine.
On a sweeter note, one worker at Europcar’s busy Stansted branch found an estate car full of plants. “They obviously couldn’t be locked in the lost property cupboard,” the representative told us, “so our office ended up smelling and looking like a florists”. Cue images of an absent-minded international horticulturist staring sadly at an empty baggage carousel. As Ken McCall, managing director of Europcar, told us: “There’s never a dull day in the life of a hire car, as some of these items of lost property reveal – our staff often go to great pains to reunite lost and forgotten property with their rightful owners.”
Further never-to-be-reunited donations from forgetful lessees that merited Europcar’s oddity list this year included: a ladies stocking (Hull), a pair of black knickers and various colostomy bags (Sheffield), a mannequin (Hull again), 20 shoes (none of which matched, in Salford), an office printer (Aylesbury), a toy elephant (Milton Keynes), a wheelchair (Bradford) and, perhaps most disturbingly of all, an ammunition case and a stretcher, in the back of a car in Reading. My favourite, however, was Reading’s find of half a pint of beer (unspilled), along with a CD entitled ‘The Art of Speed Seduction’, although the Sheffield branch’s discovery of £300 in cash is probably the one that most of us would like to adopt.