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Frazzled travelers find it tough to keep tabs on their tablets

It probably happens more often than we’d like to admit. The plane lands, everybody jumps up and, in the mad dash to deplane, you leave something behind.

If it’s a book or a magazine, it’s probably no big deal, but these days, it seems more of those items are iPads, e-readers and other pricey personal electronics.

“People are busy and many of them now carry two or three devices,” said Sean Glynn, vice president of marketing for Credant Technologies, a data-protection company. “They use them to do some work, they stash them in the seatback pocket and forget them when their plane lands.”


Joseph Folz knows the feeling all too well, having left his iPad on a Delta flight to Atlanta late last year. “Usually, I gather up all my things and put them in my briefcase before I deplane but I totally forgot it,” said the general counsel for Porsche Cars North America. “As soon as I got home and opened my briefcase, you can imagine the first word out of my mouth.”

And it’s not just airplanes, says Glynn, whose company has conducted surveys on lost devices at airports, shopping malls, ballparks and other venues. Last June, for example, the company surveyed five airports — Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix — and found that travelers left a total of 979 laptops, tablets, smartphones and USB sticks behind during the previous month alone.

Of those, more than one-third (365) were tablets and smartphones. “You’d be surprised how many people will walk off to the bathroom and leave them unattended,” said Glynn.

Airplanes present a different problem. Even if they’re not left unattended, newer mobile devices are so small, they’re easily hidden behind papers or trash and forgotten in the rush to deplane. According to The Wall Street Journal, airlines are now warehousing hundreds of tablets, as many as half of which are never reclaimed.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your odds if your device goes missing. Taping a business card to its case and registering it with the manufacturer are easy ways to provide contact information, while apps, such as “Find My iPhone” or “Find my iPad” allow you to track the location of your device, lock it or send a message in the hopes someone has it.

And the odds may be even better for air travelers, says Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist for AVG Technologies, a security-software provider. “If you leave something in the seat pocket of an airplane, you’re more likely to get it back because it’s in a fixed location,” he told msnbc.com. “If you leave it in the back of a taxi and it drives off, you have no contact with it.”

Of course, those odds are predicated on the premise that whoever has your device is honest and interested in reuniting it with its rightful owner. Cynics will scoff but, as Joseph Folz will attest, it happens.

As Folz tells it, he’d been home for about six hours when Latrice Hall, a Delta gate agent, called and said, ‘I have a very strange question — did you happen to lose anything today?’ After he told her about his iPad experience, she said a passenger had found it on a subsequent flight, turned it in to a flight attendant, who gave it to Hall upon returning to Atlanta.

“Latrice called every passenger who had sat in seat 6C on that aircraft that day until she found me,” said Folz. “I was blown away that three people who didn’t have to do anything all went to some trouble to do the right thing.”

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.