NEW YORK-By profession, Brian Colodny is an accountant. But the CPA has an affinity for startups and has applied his skill set to several in his field of expertise, and a few outside of it.
One "outsider" enterprise is Chargerback, a Web-based automated end-to-end solution for hoteliers that lifts the burden of wrangling lost and found items and helps staff reunite them with their rightful owners.
Colodny, who serves as the company's president/CFO, co-founded it with Michael "Mac" McLaughlin, now chief technical officer of Chargerback, after his own experience of trying to retrieve a lost cell phone charger from a major brand hotel in Southern California after he arrived home.
"The folks at the front desk literally laughed at me, saying. 'Well, if you want to drive back down here and go through our box of phone chargers, then you can see if you can find yours.' That wasn't very pleasing to me, so I had to go out and buy a new charger, said Colodny.
Three months later, the CPA was reading an article about how many items are lost in hotels on an annual basis (Colodny's data maintains its 46 million items in U.S. hotels) when he had an "aha" moment, and the wheels began turning. He called McLaughlin, who has expertise in computer coding, logistics and shipping, told him to read the article and, the next day, Chargerback was hatched.
That was August 2010 and, by the following May, the entrepreneurs were in beta test. "But it was nothing like we have now. It was very rudimentary and didn't have any bells and whistles," said Colodny. Still, the product was impressive enough to Hotel Director Jean Patay and General Manager Glenn Carano at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, NV, that the hotel helped develop Chargerback and became an early adopter, launching it on its website. "They were very helpful to us," Colodny recalled.
Fast forward a few years and Chargerback now has a home with hotel partners that include Caesars Entertainment and the JW Marriott in Las Vegas, Hard Rock Hotel at Lake Tahoe, the Sheraton in Atlanta and the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa. It also has IBC Hotels as a marketing partner and is a recommended lost-and-found provider for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA).
"We view the hotels as being partners of ours, not customers, because we're in it together to make the guest have a better experience," said Colodny. "And, partners are more apt to give you suggestions about how to improve something or make changes; customers are demanding."
So, how does someone retrieve a lost snake, prosthetic leg or $30,000 in cash left in the guestroom underneath a plant (some of the items reported as lost, according to Chargerback)?
"We are a cloud-based product, and we provide a small piece of [computer] code to the hotel to put a lost-and-found link on their website, preferably on the front page so it's easier for the guest to find. The guest can still call the hotel to report the item, but most hotels now will direct the guest to go to the website to file their lost report... and Millennials expect to find something on the website... that's what they're used to," said Colodny.
He stressed guests cannot view the gamut of inventory that has been found at a participating hotel. "The guests cannot 'go shopping' to see if their items are on the list," said Colodny. However, guests may upload a photo of their lost item to the hotel.
Chargerback provides a full, back-end system for the recording and management of lost and found, including a suite of management reports to gage productivity of hotel staff, which Colodny sees as particularly helpful for large resorts.
The system matches what's reported lost with found reports, and also allows the hotel to search for matches. When a match is made, the hotel via a clickthrough can select the packaging required to ship the item.
"We have a great partnership with the United States Postal Service. It provides all the shipping supplies for free. So, the hotel no longer has to weigh or zone. We took that whole aspect of lost and found out of the picture," said Colodny, who noted FedEx or UPS could be used for international mailing or oversize items.
The hotel emails or texts the guest to let he or she know the item has been found. Colodny said, "We don't take the human element out of the picture, particularly with high-value items. There are just certain things in the hospitality industry that, no matter what a product is, you still have to have a human make a decision that this Rolex watch 'for real' belongs to this guest? Did this guest really stay here?"
The solution is provided to the hotels at no cost, and a $2 rebate is provided for every item that is shipped back to a guest. Most items fit in the USPS' priority flat-rate boxes or envelopes.
"When guests pay for an item to be shipped back, the hotels are notified by the system automatically that a payment's been received. All they have to do is open up Chargerback; it directs them to the one that's been paid for, they click the button and it prints out a pre-paid shipping label. How we make our money is the difference between what the guest pays for shipping and handling and the cost of the postage we pay for, minus the $2 fee we pay to the hotel for its shipping and handling, and we make a little bit on each shipment between that differential. We're a transaction-based business," said Colodny, noting the company makes about $3 per transaction.
The executive indicated huge returns for the business was never the driver.
"When we started the company - and we still hold true to it today - Mac and I said we want to provide a great service. We want to do something that's going to help the guest. We want the hotel to have positive experience with guests, because, quite frankly, and from personal experience, if they've left something behind at a hotel and they don't have a good experience getting it back, the whole experience of the hotel is going to go down the drain."Read More...
ABOUT THREE AND a half years ago, Brian Colodny, a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City, NV, left his cell phone charger in a hotel room in southern California.
He called the front desk and asked to have the forgotten item sent to him. The response from the clerk? Laughter ...Read More...
"AAHOA is pleased that Chargerback has joined as a Founding Bronze Member to become the Lost and Found Solution Company for our members," said AAHOA Chairman Mehul Patel.Read More...
I've been known to leave things behind at hotels. There was the brand new $50 face wash at an airport hotel in Dallas. The favorite flip flops in Mauritius. The bathing suit left hanging in the bathroom in Bangkok. The phone chargers left plugged into hotel room walls in San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Phoenix.Read More...
A local entrepreneur has discovered the solution to the lost and found process.
More than 60 million cell phones are lost each year in the U.S and more than 46 million other items are left in hotels nationwide. President and CFO of Chargerback.com Brian Colodny says, "Most people do not get their items back because they experience such frustration using the archaic systems that are out there for managing lost and found."View The Video...
ON a business trip a few months ago, I lost a little electronic device called a Fitbit that hooks onto a belt, measures physical activity and keeps daily records online. It had cost around $100, and I realized with dismay that it was missing only after I got home. But I didn't make any effort to ask my airline or hotel if they found it. Cynically, I figured, why bother? Wrong.Read More...
The hotel lost and found has finally gone as electronic as the room key.
Chargerback.com, a website making its official debut today, automates the lost-and-found process for participating hotels. Although hotels have entered the digital age in countless ways, they still typically have employees manually log items left behind by guests, then wait for the guests to contact them.
The website works like this:Read More...
An Estimated 46 Million Items - from Exotic Snakes to Jewelry - Are Left behind in U.S. Hotels Alone Each Year
Chargerback today is unveiling its Web-based lost and found platform - a seamless system for entering, managing, matching, and returning the millions of items lost outside the home each year. Based on leading industry reports and Chargerback customer data, it is estimated that 46 million items are left behind in hotels nationally each year - that's not counting airports, airplanes, rental cars, and other public spaces. Chargerback addresses the enormity of this issue by alleviating the frustration and time on the part of travel entities and travelers alike in reuniting the public with their valuables.
February 2013 survey conducted by Wakefield Research revealed that:Read More...
Have you ever lost your keys while out at a bar? Accidentally misplaced your pet snake during a trip? Had your dentures mysteriously disappear? If so, Chargerback is the startup for you.
Chargerback made its public debut today, revealing its software that helps hospitality businesses automate the lost-and-found process to cut down on the amount of misplaced property. It's like the St. Anthony of software.Read More...
The lost and found departments at most hotels can easily be compared to a piled-up purgatory, where left-behind phone chargers, keys, and jewelry await a reunion with their owners. And since the lost and found process is often such a hassle, most of those items continue to take up space in the nooks and crannies of hotels until they are deposited into a landfill. But a new company is setting out to reinvent how hotels handle lost and found procedures and help guests reunite with their personal possessions in an efficient and timely manner.Read More...
Chargerback has announced a new web-based automated hotel lost and found platform. The new platform is already in place at the Las Vegas-based resort properties Treasure Island, New York-New York and The Riviera.
The platform is designed to automate the cumbersome lost and found process and help travel entities raise the bar when it comes to guest service. It also takes the frustration out of the process for the traveler by offering an easy and secure way to get their valuables back.Read More...