Where Does Lost Luggage Go?

7 years ago

We’ve all seen it: that one lonely suitcase on the baggage claim track at the airport that goes around and around with no owner in sight. What happens to it if no one shows up? Well, it might end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. That’s where you can visit a store that takes up an entire city block and find everything from the expected (clothing, toiletries, books) to, well, the unexpected. Here are 10 of the strangest items that have gone unclaimed. -- Mental Floss

I got to thinking about lost luggage after reading this piece on MSNBC. Apparently lost luggage numbers are down, but check this out:

In 2009, there were fewer passengers, fewer flights and, therefore, fewer checked bags to be mishandled. All those new checked-bag fees, according to SimpliFlying’s Shashank Nigam, caused “many passengers to stop checking-in [any] bags unless absolutely necessary ... and frequent fliers to travel light,” unless they can take advantage of elevated mileage status and check their bags for free. “That’s the secret behind the numbers,” he said. -- The Well-Mannered Traveler

I would rather like to visit the Unclaimed Baggage Center, it feels like it might be a playground for the imagination.

Despite all the sales that are made, some items just seem to want to spend more time at the Unclaimed Baggage Store. It's not the first time a lost item that has been sold and has found it's way right back again, having been lost a second time. "We recognize our own tags when the items get lost and come back to us again", says Cantrell. "We have no way of knowing who the second owner was and we just hope that with the next sale, the item stays with its new buyer!"  -- Where's Sheila? on Johnny Jet

As far as finding the stories that these lost treasures told, well, they’ve all been erased, at least as far as I could tell. Everything in the store has been sanitized and de-personalized. Before selling anything to Unclaimed Baggage, the airlines go through their own stringent process of trying to reunite owner and luggage, so most items arriving at the store are already anonymous. Once merchandise arrives, it goes through a thorough check-up and cleaning, so by time it gets to the shelves all identifying marks are long gone.-- Finding Insight in Lost Luggage on Away with Word

The Unclaimed Baggage Center buys luggage from airlines with the contents site unseen. Clothing makes up about 60 percent of the millions of items that pass through the ­store annually. Cameras, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry, glasses, books and luggage help keep the constantly rotating shelves fully stocked. The Unclaimed Baggage Center founders, Doyle and Sue Owens, started their business by selling unclaimed Greyhound bus luggage in 1970. Now the store covers a city block and sells unclaimed cargo in addition to their staple of lost airline baggage. -- How Stuff Works

Thinkstock single image collection

I understand that sometimes, your luggage doesn't arrive with you. I've become philosophical about losing luggage. Once, my luggage took five days to reach me though the flight to get to my destination was only an hour and a half. I've been separated from my luggage inbound to the US more times than I can remember and while I really don't like standing around waiting to confirm that it's just not coming, I never really mind, after all, they just bring to your house, though once, I was annoyed to be chased out of bed at 1am to collect it from the guy who had the unfortunate task of being the midnight luggage delivery service. When I arrived in Hanoi, my luggage was nowhere to be seen and I was so unbothered as to be quite amazed at my own nonchalance and equally stunned when it showed up the following day.

I've never lost luggage for good, though I do find myself wondering, as I walk by those piles of tethered suitcases, how they could get left behind, orphaned from their owners, permanently. It's weird to think of all those objects, all those bags, carefully packed and now, detached from their owners, they've got no meaning. I'm often secretly glad when my luggage is delayed, it gives me an amazing feeling of lightness. I've always thought that the ultimate in luxury travel would be to travel with nothing but a day pack and a credit card and losing my luggage gives me a momentary taste of that feeling.

Lost your bags? Did you freak out? What did you do? Links to your stories or share your tales in tme comments.

Nerd's Eye View

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