Luggage is undoubtedly one of the biggest headaches of the traveling process.
For the most part, airlines have been pretty good at getting people and their luggage together at the person’s destination. Occasionally, people have gone through the woes of lost or delayed luggage, but again those are few and far between and the airline is usually able to reunite the bags with their respective owners.
But what happens to that baggage that goes unclaimed?
Studies show that nearly four out of every 1,000 bags that travel are eventually labeled unclaimed. Nearly every airline goes through a rigorous 90-day process in an effort to find the owners of these bags, during which time the bags are placed in warehouse storage until one of two things occurs. Either the owner is found, or the 90-day limit is reached and the airline seeks to sell the unclaimed suitcases to a third party.
In Northeastern Alabama, miles from any major airports, is the city of Scottsboro, which is the answer to the above mentioned question.
As the only store in the entire United States that buys unclaimed luggage from the various major airlines, the Unclaimed Baggage Center has become the final place a travelers bags will end up. That is, before they are resold to the general public at ridiculously discounted prices.
Started in 1970 by Doyle Owens, the retailer that is billed as, “America’s only lost luggage store,” has been family owned and operated for over four decades now. The building has also expanded and now covers more than an entire city block, over 40,000 square feet.
What can you expect to find on Lost Luggage Lane?
Just about everything under the sun. And more.
Although clothes make up the majority of what they sell, which makes sense as most people put that in their suitcases, the store also sells a number of electronics, sporting gods, musical instruments and other various oddities. According to a report from NBC News, in 2014 alone, the store managed to sell 3,400 iPads, 5,000 cameras and 40,000 pairs of shoes.
With most of the items being sold at 50-80% off of what you’d find at a retail store, it makes a more viable solution for people than buying an item at full price. In the same NBC News story mentioned above, a woman was found purchasing a $600 dollar iPad for just $164, a markdown of nearly 73%.
More than the prospect of an amazing deal lures people to this one-of-a-kind destination though. It has become more than just a store, it has become a tourist attraction.
Each day at 2:30 p.m., the staff chooses a customer to publicly unpack a bag and discover what interesting things lay hidden inside. The store ranks as one of the best things to do while in Alabama and sees more than 1 million annual visitors. Furthermore, visitors can check out a museum dedicated to all of the irreplaceable oddities that were discovered inside of bags.
In over 40 years, the store has found some interesting things inside of other people’s luggage. Things like a full suit of armor, a Hoggle puppet used in the 80’s movie Labyrinth, someone’s remains (ashes), numerous Egyptian artifacts, a camera built by NASA for the Space Shuttle and a missile guidance system from the United States Navy. (Both of the last two things were promptly returned to their respective owners.)
Along with these odd finds, goes a number of interesting stories. One of these accounts, told by the store’s staff, recounts a tale of a man who purchased a pair of ski boots for his wife. She had lost her pair when traveling on a ski trip and was unable to recover them. When the man returned home his wife mentioned that the boots that fit her foot perfectly looked very familiar. She was surprised when she found that this pair was actually the ones she had lost, due to the fact that her maiden name was still on the boots right where she had written it years ago, on the inside of the tongue.
Another interesting part of this unique business is its incredible focus on charity. Through its, “Reclaimed for Good” program, which works with both local and national charities, nearly a third of everything that is purchased is donated to help those in need. Causes like the Salvation Army, Lions Club Sight First Program, Joni and Friends Wheels for the World and more have benefited from the Reclaimed for Good program.
Regardless of what you head there for, whether it be a deal, or just for the experience, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is certainly one of those places to need to visit at least once in your lifetime. You could end up finding a great deal, coming home with some stories to tell or even some of your long-lost luggage.
For more information about the Unclaimed Baggage Center, located in Scottsboro, Alabama, visit their website: “The Unclaimed Baggage Center”
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