In spite of the fact that many airlines make you pay to check a bag when you fly, about one half of one percent of checked luggage goes unclaimed. And since 1970, one store in Alabama has made a name for itself by buying up those unclaimed bags, sight unseen, and then sells your stuff for a profit.
Video via Bloomberg
Located in Scottsboro, Alabama, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is exactly what it sounds like. It's essentially a thrift store at which you can prey upon the misfortune of others who were absent-minded enough to leave their suitcase at the airport for some dumb reason. I mean really... who takes the time and care to pack a suitcase full of belongings — some of which are very valuable — and then leaves it all behind? Apparently, so many people do this that a business can not only operate from it for over forty years, but also become a tourist attraction.
How do your things end up in this store? The Unclaimed Baggage Center buys unclaimed baggage by the pound, through relationships it has established with airlines. After an airline has tried to locate and contact the bags' owner for 90 days, and claims have been paid for lost merchandise, the Center buys up the bags and ships them to Alabama. So many bags are bought, that they arrive in tractor trailers. Once they arrive, they're sorted through. Items are them appraised and categorized into what they want to sell, donate or trash. The company says all clothes are dry-cleaned on site, at one of the largest cleaners in the state. Electronics are tested to make sure they function, and are then wiped clear of personal data.
It's important to note that the Unclaimed Baggage Center isn't solely out to make a buck. Company owner Bryan Owens says, "It is our mission to 'reclaim for good' what was once unclaimed." They have donated hundreds of thousands of pairs of eye glasses to the Lions Club Sight First program. They've also donated wheelchairs and medical supplies. Many of the suitcases themselves are hand-painted and then given to children who are moving into foster homes. If you're interested in visiting the Unclaimed Baggage Center, you can get info on their location and hours here.
Photos via Unclaimed Baggage Center