Some 40,000 items are forgotten on Berlin’s BVG public transport system each year, yet only a third of these are claimed by their owners. The lost and found office puts them up for sale at a quarterly auction, where thrifty Berliners can go to try and hunt down a bargain.
“The atmosphere is very relaxed and fun, and people come here to get things for a good price,” said Monika Beier, who together with her husband Ulrich runs the auction house in an industrial area of the German capital.
A look at the wealth of items available at the last auction held this week would certainly make anyone more determined to hold onto their belongings next time they travel on the U-Bahn metro. Clear plastic bin liners packed tight with hundreds of pairs of gloves sit next to quirkier items such as a longboard skateboard and a pair of bright red clogs.
“It’s funny to see what people leave behind, and that some people really don’t take care of their stuff,” said Quirin Wildgen, one of the many people hoping to bag themselves some discounted electrical goods.
Visitors to the auction this time around were an odd mixture of experienced bargain-hunters looking to buy bundles of lost umbrellas and bags to sell at one of Berlin’s many flea markets and Berlin hipsters tipped off by the city’s bilingual culture newsletter Sugarhigh.
Certainly the chance to pick up a laptop for as little as €120, a digital camera for €50, and slightly more unconventional items like a kiddie pool for €3 is something that many of the capital’s cash-poor denizens can get excited about. And there’s the added benefit of helping improve Berlin’s public transportation system as profits from the auction are fed back into enhancing the BVG’s service.
The happiest in attendance on Thursday appeared to be the Wallgren family. The four young boys George, August, Gustav and Phillip not only enjoyed joining in the bidding on some of the discount bikes available, they also all managed to get new wheels for about €25 each.
“I have no idea how we’re going to get them all home,” said their mother. “The one thing I don’t understand is who’s leaving all their bikes on the metro?”