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Thu Mar 23, 2006 - 4:40 PM EST - By Douglas Morse

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StuffBak is a service and a promise. You slap their screaming yellow and black stickers on your valuable goods, and gamble that people who find your lost items will call a toll free number to report their find. StuffBak acts as a high tech lost and found department. You lose it, someone finds it, and the company rewards the finder, recovers and returns it to you - for a fee. To entice honest people to return found items, StuffBak offer a "reward" that isn't much of one, but you can add your own cash reward to persuade people who find your lost stuff to return it. In my tests the StuffBak service worked some of the time, but not nearly to the extent the company claims.

The product comes as a kit of two or more labels, available in many sizes and shapes, which you can stick onto your portable treasures. Treo or any cell phone, mp3 portables, radios, cameras, watches, keychain fob, wallet, just about anything you might lose that would give you grief if you lost it.

Each sticker has a unique serial number and you register that number and ownership info with StuffBak and (if you choose) offer a cash reward for the return of your doodad if you lose it.

StuffBak claims a 75% return rate of lost items. Their site is filled with testimonials from satisfied customers who got their stickered stuff back.

I tried a real-world test around the NYC area, and lost some things on purpose to try to verify the company�s return rate claims. My results were disappointing - out of four items I "lost," only one of them came home as a result of the StuffBak label. One ended up in a restaurant's lost and found - the workers there ignored the sticker - and the other has never been heard of since. I "lost" the recovered item again a few days ago, and it's still gone. Four tries, one return. 25% success rate. Sure, this was a statistically small test, but a fair one since the stickers come in two- or five-packs. Perhaps it would take more intentional losses, a bigger sampling, to verify StuffBak�s claims of just how well these stickers work.

The first place you'll want to stick a StuffBak label is on your Treo. Even if you have insurance on your cell plan, it is much more desirable to have a good Samaritan call the 800 number on the label and return it to you. In this scenario, the Treo's case and SD card will likely make their way back to you as well. Insurance generally doesn�t cover those accessories, which can be expensive to replace. You won�t have to pay a deductible, either, although you might generously give a cash reward to the finder.

The problem is that the StuffBak service isn�t free. You pay for the stickers, the recovery fees, shipping charges, and optional cash rewards. The company's "reward" to the finder of lost goods is only some stickers. No wonder StuffBak is so eager to get their labels out to everyone who will take them. Each new user will have to pay a recovery fee, and every found item results in more label users.


The labels come in many assortment packs of 2 to 56 labels. The TreoCentral store currently sells the 2, 5, and 8 packs.

When you open the colorful yellow and black package, you�ll find labels that are different sized rectangles and circles. Where might you use a circle-shaped label? On the back of a watch, of course. Or a dog�s tag. The five-label "On the Go" pack contains

  • 1 Standard Label - 2" x .75"
  • 1 Narrow Label - 2.5" x .375"
  • 1 Round Label � 3/4� diameter
  • 2 Small Labels - 1.6" x .25"

    In bright yellow lettering, each label shouts REWARD FOR RETURN with a toll-free phone number and a website URL to contact. The identifying serial number says "OWNER" followed by a combination of seven letters and numbers. Unfortunately, StuffBak uses the number 0, which can easily be confused with the letter O. On the smaller labels this is especially irksome.

    Once you�ve labeled your gadget, you head over to to register. This process is delightfully simple. On the home page is a big banner urging you to �Click here to activate�. Following that link, you are prompted for your Owner number. If you type an �O� for a zero, you are told that StuffBak does not use the letter �O�. Nor do they use B, D, I or S. At least this helps with the letter/number confusion.

    Then you follow the steps to identify your item by category, sub-category, make, model, serial number, and description. �Small electronic devices� is the obvious choice for Treo owners. The other pull-down options include �Children�s items and Pets.� I assume that you put the round StuffBak label on pet�s name tag, not its fur or tail feathers.
    Then choose the sub-category such as cat, dog, ferret, rabbit, or reptile. Treo owners would choose the sub-category �PDA� with �Palm� as the make. Next, enter the model, serial number and a short description. You can also register items with StuffBak via a convenient 800 number, without visiting the website. Everyone I�ve spoken to at customer service has been friendly and clear.

    Two more steps are required to complete registration. First, you can opt to offer a cash reward. Just how much are you willing to pop to get that valuable back? Secondly, you might need to complete a short survey. First time users will have to create a user account with the usual contact information.

    Once registered, when you return to the site, just enter your user name and password. You'd return to change contact information if you moved, to add other stickers or items, or update the status of lost or not-lost goods. You can report whether an item is lost or has been returned. The StuffBak website keeps a comprehensive and clear log of your registered items.

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