Linda Marsh is involved in the day-to-day running of Cophall Parking, one of Gatwick’s oldest off-airport parking and valet services, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. The 24-hour business that started with just a couple of family members and a single minibus now has 50 staff and a fleet of vehicles.
During the winter months skiers make up a large proportion of our business. They leave their cars with us for weekends or weeks at a time and we’ve got a few celebrities who are regulars.
In the rush of departure at the end of your ski holiday you might leave an important item behind instead of packing it into your luggage.
It could be a pair of knickers left on the bathroom floor, a pile of clothing hidden out of sight on the top shelf of a cupboard, a jacket on a hook behind the door, a pair of shoes under the bed…but surely not a baby or a Bentley?
And in the excitement of going on holiday you’d be amazed at what people manage accidentally to leave behind – before they even leave the UK.
One of our customers picked up the wrong suitcase and actually managed to check it in. A mum handed her car keys to the valet parking driver and headed off into the terminal before realising something was wrong – she’d left her baby in the back seat. Just occasionally, a customer leaves their car – and never, ever returns for it.
From our survey of a cross-section of tour operators it seems that among absent-minded ski guests such treasured items are surprisingly often left behind with the trash.
Seven chalets in Courchevel and Meribel
A £50,000 diamond ring left on a dresser; an envelope containing £5,000 in cash; a bed shipped in by a client; a dog? Yes, a little dog. Two small children – two families sharing a chalet left at the same time, both thinking that the other had their children; a whole bundle of counterfeit $100 dollar bills; barely-opened bottles of chilli and Mars bar flavoured vodkas (there’s no accounting for taste); a wife – she stayed behind with her ski instructor.
Maybe the owner upgraded – you can easily add a nought to such wrist candy in half-a-dozen jewellers on Zermatt’s Bahnhofstrasse.
10 resorts in France, Austria, and Italy
False teeth left in a glass in a bedroom – obviously the owner didn’t get up in time for breakfast on transfer day. How he or she tackled the baguette sandwich prepared by the chalet staff for elevenses remains a mystery.
Eight chalets in Verbier
A client had two giant wardrobes delivered to their chalet, full of their kids’ Christmas presents – they took the gifts home, but left the wardrobes; a box of fancy dress costumes ranging from gorillas to lions.
One man left his wallet behind and asked for staff to put it in a taxi to the airport. The wallet crossed on the motorway with the previous wallet he’d left at the airport on the way out and which was finally on its way to Verbier.
30 chalets in Courchevel, Val d’Isere and La Tania
A 6ft cardboard cut-out of American professional wrestler of the 1980s and ’90s, Hulk Hogan. Not a lot of people know that his real name is Terry Gene Bollea.
Three chalets in Reberty-les-Menuires
Steve Pangli, co-owner of the chalet company, said: “I fortunately didn’t find it myself, but there was a (by all accounts giant) bra found in our Jacuzzi one year, hiding behind the filter hatch.”
Six resorts in Austria, France, Spain, and Switzerland
“A wedding ring, and a desperate call from one of our guests at the airport saying they’d left money under the mattress”, says Richard Johnson, MD of the Oldham-based company.
Seven chalets in Verbier
A whip under the bed of one of the chalets (actual item pictured here), proof that regardless of Fifty Shades of Grey, ski holidays are not suffering from pain drain.
Five chalets in Val d’Isere
A stash of 3,000 euros left in a bedroom drawer. New skis and boots bought in the resort but abandoned because the guests hadn’t booked ski carriage home; a suitcase full of wigs; a bed – the client brought his own, but never arranged for it to be shipped back home again.
19 resorts in France, Austria, and Italy
A wig and, in the wake of a lads’ ski holiday in St Anton, a man’s wedding ring hidden in a hanky at the back of a wardrobe. A lady of a certain age was abandoned by an equally mature guest who had met her in the resort – she posted a message on Facebook to try and find him.
18 chalets in Val d’Isere, Courchevel, Meribel, and Les Gets
Bottles of expensive vintage wine; loads of designer ski kit in pristine condition; unopened tins of caviar; a range of Hermes gifts still in their boxes.
Chalets in Verbier, St Anton and five other resorts
Sex toys; cars (one Audi and one Bentley); a leg of ham; a Cartier watch; two Burberry duffle coats; a 1,800chf/£1,254 belt (tag still attached); two pairs of custom-made ski boots – brand new and discarded.
Major tour operator to 13 countries
In just two months: 98 Santa hats, 17 selfie sticks, 15 pairs of long johns, 13 mankinis, 12 pairs of goggles, a life-size cut out of Lucy Beal from Eastenders, one walking stick, and one fire constabulary badge.
20 chalets in Val d’Isere
A black bin liner of clothes; prescription goggles; kinky underwear – and, long before Fifty Shades of Grey, a whip left under a bed.
Family holidays in La Plagne, Les Gets and Reberty-les-Menuires
A much-treasured teddy, fortunately safely repatriated by car the following week and reunited with his tearful owner. He had a very comfy journey home with the back seat to himself, including an interesting stop at a vineyard en route.
Holidays to more than 80 resorts in 9 countries
Penguin costumes were left behind by guests in one of our chalets in Les Deux Alpes,” says Lydia Crisostomo from Inghams. “We put them to good use!”
21 resorts in France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland
A large and expensive-looking silver sex toy, found under a bed just after the occupants had departed. The chalet girl wrapped it up and sent it off to the airport on the second transfer coach.
The airport rep managed to call the guest to the desk and discreetly presented her with a bag.
She was appalled, swore that it wasn’t hers and stormed off. Several minutes later her husband came by to claim the item.
What Have You Left Behind?
We’d love to hear your stories about important and not so important items left behind on a ski holiday! Please feel free to share it with us in the comments box below.