Lost Luggage=Treasure Trove at the Unclaimed Baggage Center
By Connie Wu
Ever wonder what happens to all the mysteriously lost luggage in the world? According to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, 99.5 percent of domestic checked bags get picked up at the baggage carousel leaving 0.5 to 1 percent of bags stranded somewhere else. Within five days, 95 percent of those redirected bags also make their way to their owners. For the few remaining trunks and suitcases, airlines go through an intense three-month search for their proper owners. And if, after all that, the owners and bags can't be connected, the lost luggage heads to the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
Located in Scottsboro, Ala., the Unclaimed Baggage Center attracts savvy shoppers and curious tourists alike and hosts almost one million visitors every year. The original idea began with Doyle Owens when he purchased a pick-up truck full of unclaimed baggage from a Washington D.C. bus line in 1970. Over the next 40 years, the family-run company grew into a slick operation with 140 employees and a 40,000 square foot store. The Unclaimed Baggage Center almost passes as a department store, but it's mind-blowing to remember that every single item was once found tucked in a suitcase.
Today, the UBC has contracts with airlines and other transportation companies that allow them to purchase unclaimed baggage in bulk without opening or sorting through the contents first. The resulting unpacking can be a sometimes wonderful, sometimes disturbing, but always surprising event. Suitcases open to reveal everything from regular dirty clothes and cameras to live rattlesnakes and full suits of armor.
Whatever can be salvaged gets cleaned and priced and placed in the shop at heavily discounted rates. Items that are too gross or too illegal are removed, while other things that don't make it to the retail floor are donated to charity or recycled. Best of all, the UBC saves the weirdest, quirkiest, and most valuable items for a museum located on its premises which is worth a visit itself. Some of the treasures on display include ancient Egyptian artifacts, a violin from 1770, and the actual "Hoggle" puppet from the Jim Henson movie Labyrinth.
Customers have found priceless works of art for only a couple bucks, and the store reports that many happy couples acquired wedding and engagement rings that the UBC found tucked into rolled up socks and other creative storage methods. One man even managed to find his wife's own boots that she had lost two years prior.
Even if you don't plan on visiting Scottsboro any time soon, check out the video below to see rows and rows of abandoned iPads, shelves full of high quality cameras, and an unbelievable number of shoes, and read more here.