red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

Unclaimed Baggage

amazing finds from the "land of lost luggage"

 

Whether you're a shop-till-you-drop bargain hunter or just curious about the netherworld of missing luggage and cargo, the Unclaimed Baggage website gives you an idea of the one-of-a-kind treasures people haul with them when they travel...and what happens to them when they're separated at the baggage carousel or the loading dock.

Started in 1970 by Doyle and Sue Owens, Unclaimed Baggage buys whatever the airlines and cargo haulers can't match with owners after 90 to 120 days of searching. Contrary to what you might suspect as an unlucky traveler, the bags you check aren't simply spirited away to fill this store. Airlines and freight companies really do try — for up to four months — to find the actual owners of lost luggage or misdirected cargo. But after that time, this company buys the remainders and stocks its gigantic warehouse/store in Scottsboro, Alabama. In 1995, the son of the owners acquired the store and expanded its physical presence in the town of about 15,000 that sits in the Applachian Mountains east of Huntsville and not far from Chattanooga.

The online baggage store can only offer a taste of the vast array of stuff that passes through the Scottsboro facility. As many as 7,000 items can be found in a day's inventory — and they're put on display as soon as they're sorted, cleaned, and priced, which happens as many as twenty times a day. About sixty percent of the products are clothes, and yes, everything is cleaned before being put up for sale — Unclaimed Baggage runs the largest dry-cleaning operation in several states.

Beyond clothing, you'll find everything from snow- and surf-boards to cameras, jewelry, tools, electronics, CDs, DVDs, and baby gear. Recently, the company started handling unclaimed cargo, the business-to-business shipments that somehow fail to end up on the loading docks of the companies that originally ordered them. Who knew?

While the Unclaimed Baggage website doesn't pretend to be the kind of one-stop-shopping experience you mind get from Amazon.com, for example, it does offer a selection of inventory from the bricks-and-mortar store and a few interesting asides: peek inside the bag of a real shopper to see the purchases and prices (as much as 60 to 70 percent below retail), submit a guess about an unidentified item and how it is used to win a T-shirt, go on a virtual tour of the store, or 'unpack the bag' to see a smattering of the most recently acquired items.

For holiday shoppers, bargain hunters, or curiosity seekers, this place could be addictive. Start online and you may want to take your chances on a trip to the real warehouse in northeastern Alabama.

 

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