You never know what you’ll find at Unclaimed Baggage

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When it comes to cities that are home to top Alabama attractions, Scottsboro is unlikely to come to mind. It should be, however, as more than a million people travel to the small southern town each year, all in the hope of finding a treasure hidden among the lost luggage at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

The unclaimed baggage center began in 1970 when insurance salesman Doyle Owens used a borrowed van and a $300 loan to purchase 100 orphan suitcases from the Trailway bus line in Washington DC. He took the luggage back to Scottsboro, where it was all sold. a single day.

The center is now a 50,000 square foot facility that works with major airlines to purchase orphan suitcases from across the country that go unclaimed after the standard 90-day allotment. In an effort to maximize the bag’s potential, its contents are either sold, recycled or donated to charity.

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While 99.5% of the time bags are successfully reunited by airlines with their owners, this still leaves the unclaimed baggage center with a lot of cargo to work with. Of course, since luggage is purchased unseen, they don’t know exactly what that merchandise will be until they bring it back to the warehouse.

“Each bag tells a story. You can find anything from the expected to the unexpected, even the kitchen sink,” said Jennifer Kritner, vice president of retail and corporate culture at Unclaimed Baggage.

Nor is it hyperbole. Besides finding a wide range of items you’d expect like clothes, shoes, books, electronics and of course suitcases, unclaimed baggage center customers are often surprised at what the center has more to gain.

The mall’s sales floor is filled with around 7,000 new items every day, and many of them prove that you never know what someone’s packing.

You never know what you’ll find at Scottsboro Unclaimed Baggage. (Courtesy of Unclaimed Baggage)

Some of the more unusual finds at the center over the years, according to Kritner, include a life-size paper Tinkerbell, a bag full of Egyptian artifacts including shrunken heads, a living rattlesnake, vacuum-sealed frogs and a 40 carat, raw emerald – worth $32,000 – nestled in the end of a sock.

It’s that thrill of the unknown that draws crowds to the centre’s daily 2pm loot bag opening, during which a customer can open an untreated orphan piece of luggage for the very first time. Kritner said she thinks it’s the anticipation of finding the extraordinary at a good price that keeps people from all walks of life coming back to the center.

“I think most people come because they never know what they’re going to find,” Kritner said. “It’s just those surprising moments that keep people coming back. It really feels like shopping in other people’s closets.

Another big draw is one you might not expect for a center in Alabama – a ski sale, which draws hundreds of customers each year. The sale takes place on the first Saturday in November, and people often camp out on the porch the night before in hopes of buying ski gear at a bargain price.

You don’t have to visit Scottsboro to explore downtown. In June 2020, Unclaimed Baggage added an online shopping experience so customers can search for their unique merchandise without ever leaving the couch. Around 3,500 new products are added exclusively to the site every week.

“We wanted to give our website a facelift and give our e-commerce a new channel, a new website,” Kritner said. “He far exceeded all of our expectations. New products hit the website every day, but the main drop days are Thursday and Sunday. It’s so interesting to see how wildly successful it has been.

For more information, visit the Unclaimed Baggage Center website.

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