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Bargain Hunting at Unclaimed Luggage Locations

submitted on September 20, 2010 by pablos17 in "Member's Lounge"
Lost-luggage reports have declined by almost 21 percent in the past year, but some airlines are better about keeping track of bags than others. So what happens to luggage that never finds its owner, at least in the U.S.? I recently decided to find out. So I went to Scottsboro, AL, to the privately run Unclaimed Baggage Center (, which has exclusive contracts with all the major U.S. airlines to buy luggage declared lost after 90 days.

From the outside, the nondescript store looks not unlike a mail-sorting facility in a largish suburb. Inside, think Wal-Mart with slightly used merchandise. When lost luggage arrives, much of the contents are thrown away or donated to charities, but the rest is placed on the store’s retail shelves: diamond rings, designer shoes, surfboards, even wedding gowns. The center has been processing more than one million such pieces annually since it opened in 1970.

"We once had a metallic fire suit, like a firefighter would wear," says Brenda Cantrell, director of marketing. "In our jewelry department we had a 40.95-carat emerald, a loose stone. We appraised it for $35,000 and sold it for $17,000. We also had a 5.8-carat diamond ring appraised for $46,000. We sold it to a couple in Tennessee. The man had cash on hand and bought it for $23,000."

Occasionally travelers will phone the store in the hopes that a missing article has turned up, but Cantrell says the center can’t assist with such requests because of the sheer volume of lost luggage it receives. There is, however, at least one instance of someone finding a missing item on the shelves of the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

Favorite (1)
  • 79999
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    Posted by DebsFreebies on September 20, 2010
    [reply] 4 0
    Really interesting. Shame, you can't buy online. Seems the airlines would be liable for lost luggage.
  • 80009
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    Posted by pablos17 on September 20, 2010
    [reply] 5 0
    I've heard stories that even if your name and address is tagged on the luggage and your baggage is "unclaimed" then, in most cases, they won't even bother contacting the owner of the luggage to have it returned to its rightful owner.
  • 80012
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    Posted by vectra5 on September 20, 2010
    [reply] 5 0
    That's news to me.. I had no idea Unclaimed Baggage Center exists... with so much baggage getting lost these days , this must be a good business...
  • 80033
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    Posted by deathbynosleep on September 20, 2010
    [reply] 5 0
    Am I the only one who would not put something worth thousands in my luggage to be checked? Anything of real value I always carry on.
    • HouTex
      Posted by HouTex on September 20, 2010
      [reply] 5 0
      I wouldn't do that, either. I can't believe the valuable gemstones! We don't even take extra pieces of nice jewelry on vacation. Once we even bought $2 watches for everybody and left our regular watches at home.
  • 80094
    Posted by YanBz on September 20, 2010 [reply] 0 0
    I remember writing about this store on my blog in 2006. Here is my favorite part:

    Back in the eighties we got a well-traveled Gucci suitcase that was packed with artifacts that dated back to 1500 B.C. And once we found a guidance system for an F-16 fighter jet, in a shockproof case from the Department of the U.S. Navy. It was labeled "Handle With Extreme Caution. I Am Worth My Weight in Gold." The UBC sent that one back.

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