Friendship, Stewardship
October 6, 2012 8:38 AM   Subscribe

What to do with an awol friend's large object?

A friend left a large possession in my care to store, nearly twenty years ago. The item was of personal significance in this person's youth. We shared warm but tenuous rapport since then, and have drifted out of touch in the last decade. I don't have current contact info for this person.

We are moving and won't have anywhere to store this large item.

What to do with this thing?

a) friend had many years to reclaim said thing

b) thing was of personal significance at one time

c) ?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Sell/dispose as you wish. If they haven't been in touch for a decade, it's of no significance for them now.
posted by scruss at 8:42 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have current contact info for this person.

Would you be willing to do some Googling, just to be able to say that you tried to find this person, should he or she ever reappear and ask about the object? I think you should at least try.

If that turns up no additional information, then donate it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:42 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't have any way of getting contact information for them? No mutual acquaintances?

Anyway, if it has any inherent value, I'd auction or sell it. You could give them the money (minus your storage/disposal fee) if they ever show up.
posted by grouse at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2012

I'd say a quick poke around Facebook and Google to try and find them, then—if that's a dead end—donate it to a thrift store. Twenty years is an awfully long time, and ten years is pretty long, too.
posted by littlerobothead at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you don't have any contact info for them they likely don't have any for you. It is already lost to them
posted by Blasdelb at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Toss it, this guy owes you for the storage of this thing by this point, not the other way around.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the nature of the thing really matters.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:07 AM on October 6, 2012 [17 favorites]

Donate it or dump it.
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on October 6, 2012

Take some pictures of the item before you dispose of it.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:16 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

As suggested above, you can do a quick Google and Facebook search. If you find the person on FB, depending on their privacy/contact settings, you might be able to send them a message without/before you're Friends.

If you want to devote a little more effort and time, you could try posting a message on Twitter or on your personal blog if you have one:

"[FirstName LastName], I still have your [object] from 20 years ago. Drop me a line [email/in comments/at this Twitter] if you want to reclaim it. If I don't hear from you by [reasonable deadline], I'll [donate/sell/dispose of] it." Obviously, you can make this message more personal or chatty, but include FirstName, LastName, a way to contact you, and a deadline. If your erstwhile friend does any vanity Googling, they'll happen upon your message.

But I'm going to agree with others who say that twenty years --- ten of them without contact --- is a long time to curate someone else's Large Object, and that you're absolved from guilt if you just dispose of it.

If you do find your friend and they want to reclaim the object, you can feel equally guilt-free about pleasantly making it clear that they can come get it or (if you're willing to spend some time packing it) pay for shipping, that you are not going to spend money shipping or moving it, and that there's a deadline after which you can't keep it. You've kept it safe all these years; you've done what you promised.
posted by Elsa at 9:19 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agreeing that I would make an honest and reasonable stab at finding and contacting this person and giving them a set period of time to reclaim it, should they want to. Even if you fail & they surface later, you can at least honestly say " Hey, I tried," but I would feel no obligation to keep it if your honest efforts are for naught.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:24 AM on October 6, 2012

If you try locating them through Facebook or Googling: also do searches for their family, if you remember any names for Friend's siblings or parents. It might be a long shot, but do you know what college Friend attended? Perhaps the alumni office will have contact info.

But if you can't find Friend, and/or Friend is unwilling to come collect Large Item (or worse, expects you to pay to ship it or even continue to store it), then yes, donate or dispose of it. You've already given them twenty years to collect it; at this point, it's fair to say they can live without ever seeing it again. (And I'd make that a hard deadline that Friend must pick it up at least one week before you move, or it will be disposed of.)
posted by easily confused at 9:54 AM on October 6, 2012

I can see the arguments that he's had more than enough time, but it's possible he fell into the same mindset as you. He might've liked to have it back, but felt it would've been awkward (or rude) to contact you about it after all that time.

It's too bad we don't know what it is. It'd be kind of wild if he read Metafilter too.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:19 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

You've been good enough to keep it for 20 years. I think you give it another 5. But those years are spent trying to track down friend and give object back. It's all completely pointless of course, might cost you time and money, won't be appreciated, etc. - but it just seems like the right thing to do.
posted by Xhris at 6:46 PM on October 6, 2012

I've been in both roles here, as keeper and also as a person who has stored things. Due diligence would dictate that now that you are unable to keep possession of the item, you do your best to track this person down and give them the option of reclaiming it or letting it go (meaning you sell/donate/give away). I've never begrudged anyone who has given anything of mine away, been pleasantly surprised when a random box had returned to me after many years and the things I've kept for others who never asked for their items back I've made sure they were passed on to someone who could use and appreciate it, or given it as a donation. Heck, I just did that last week and the person receiving the awesome item will appreciate it and give it a good home!
posted by kuppajava at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2012

At the very least, do a search for their Firstname Lastname and email every plausible candidate that comes up: "Hi, are you the Firstname Lastname who used to live in NameOfTown? If yes, please contact [YourName/Your Contact Info] — I have something of yours of sentimental value and need to get it back to you before I move! If no, please disregard. Thanks!"

(I'm remembering how pissed off I was at the person who phoned me to say "I'm having a garage sale today, come get your [family heirloom] bookcase if you want it"… It'd been six months and he had my number — he couldn't do the decent thing and give me a day or two notice to arrange for a vehicle large enough to fit a bookcase?)
posted by Lexica at 9:02 PM on October 6, 2012

Is it a body? No? Throw it out. If it is a body, you know what to do
posted by MangyCarface at 10:27 AM on October 8, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
OP here. I found and contacted the item's owner. Item was a large musical instrument, in poor condition when left with me, and worth not much. It had been forgotten and unwanted, and will now be donated. Still, I agree it was correct to make the effort. Thanks for your feedback!
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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