As I mentioned in an earlier post, I just took a long weekend family trip to Huntsville Alabama. Down the road from Huntsville about 45 minutes (and about an hour from Chattanooga) is the Unclaimed Baggage Center. It’s been on my list of places I wanted to go for a long time. It started out in the 1970s and has been it its current huge form since 1995.
They say a million+ items pass through this big store each year. That’s how much stuff gets lost by the airlines and is never recovered. It’s kind of a bittersweet shopping experience. On the one hand it’s great to pick up items in good condition (often still new) at a bargain price. On the other hand it’s kind of sad knowing that somebody lost their things and will never get them back.
As we were reminded while we were there, most people pack their favorite things when they travel, the clothes they think make them look their best or the ones that they gravitate to as the most comfortable. So rack upon rack has someone’s favorite pair of jeans, the new shirt they just bought for the trip, or the gadgets they got as Christmas or birthday presents. Bummer!
But I got over it and picked up this stash pictured here for a shade over $65. There are four nice shirts (two with original tags still on them) a coffee grinder, a kid’s sling backpack, a mini mouse for a laptop, a portable digital picture frame, two books, a sticker book, and a sparkly brooch my daughter went ga-ga over. There was also a grab bag packet of stationary and notebooks that’s not in the picture. When we opened it up there was a Moleskin notebook inside. Nice.
There are electronics, cameras, golf clubs, (legal) drugs, and all kinds of jewelry and cosmetics. It’s like a trip to Big Lots—you’re never quite sure what they’re going to have—but it’s a huge store in two buildings. What’s funny is the pattern of what people so often lose or leave on the plane: there’s no shortage of wide-brimmed hats, snorkel gear, and earphones.
If an airline lost your luggage and it never turned up, you might recognize an item or two here in Scottsboro, Alabama.
It’s also kind of fun to visit just to see the oddities that are left behind. There’s a rotating display of strange items that have turned up, from false limbs to pieces of artwork. Then the shelves are filled with items that make you wonder, “Why did anyone pack that for a flight?”
See more at unclaimedbaggage.com
Update 2020: With fewer people traveling due to shelter-at-home situations, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is entering the digital age. You can now go to their site and shop online to access their inventory. They’ve still got some kinks to work out—every laptop listed on the site is also listed as “sold,” which makes it kind of pointless.
I’m seriously wondering what’s going to happen to their pipeline of products since air travel is down 91% year-over-year as I write this. Fewer checked bags means fewer lost luggage items. But maybe with people shopping less it’s all a wash.
A few friends of mine have visited here since I did, picking up iPads, headphones, clothing, and lots of other items. As for me, I’m still using that coffee grinder after all these years and I still wear one of the shirts, so I think my trip to Scottsboro was definitely a success!