There’s nothing worse than losing a carefully chosen Christmas present, especially if it’s a snappy new iPhone, pocket-sized camera, whiz-bang laptop, or anything else that will eventually hold the keys to your life. With so much to lose these days, there’s never been a better time for a global lost and found department, and thanks to Santa Barbara residents Andrew Lee and James Tamplin, that dream is now a reality.

In September, Lee and Tamplin unveiled, which they are billing as the world’s first entirely free online lost-and-found recovery service. It’s already attracted thousands of users, and countless items-including three things intentionally lost by The S.B. Independent in an experiment earlier this year-have been returned to their rightful owners.

Signing up for is easy: Simply go to the site, create an account with your email and a password, and then start registering the items you’d like to protect. Then either purchase a set of sticky, weatherproof labels from the company (their only source of revenue) or print out the labels yourself; write down the tracking number provided to you by the Web site on the labels; affix them to your items; and carry on with your life. When life deals you a lost item, tell the Web site it’s missing and cross your fingers that some good-hearted or karma-concerned soul finds your stuff, logs onto the Web site, and follows the easy steps to return your property.

While that’s easy enough, the bigger question is whether people will actually go out of their way to return lost items, especially ones with inherent value, such as a laptop, cell phone, or camera. (In The Indy’s experiment, 10 items were lost, and only three were returned, for instance. Though, to be fair, we lost the items in some pretty weird, hard-to-find places.)

But the owners remain optimistic. Tamplin, who came up with the idea in July after losing his cell phone in a Madison, Wisconsin, bar, explained, “We believe that our users will be thankful for the money and hassle they are spared, but I think they will be even more pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers.”

And it doesn’t hurt at all to try. So check out to protect the gifts you give and get this holiday season

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