Unclaimed Baggage Center (Scottsboro) or What happens to a luggage if you lost it
Русская версия Those who often fly will understand this feeling: every time you have to check in your luggage, you are anxious. It is because airlines lose them too often, they do not see a great trouble in it, and sometimes even don’t apologies. It first happened to Nastya on a flight between Warsaw and Helsinki: on arrival she found herself without a suitcase Airberlin lost, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with a laptop, documents, and (thankfully) money only. It happened just before the conference, and I had to rush to buy something to wear, a toothbrush, etc. Airberlin reimbursed all these expenses and brought my suitcase to the hotel in 2 days, but since then I tried not to check in my luggage, or check in only those things which I won’t need within 2-3 days. When living and travelling in the US, things were much worse, since half of my trips ended up with the lost luggage. They used to bring it home with a courier the same or the next day (it seems that courier service for them is cheaper than to organize proper luggage delivery), but before the suitcases arrived I used to worry. Even if you try to travel with your hand luggage only, you won’t be very successful: they force you to check it in at the gate, since the luggage compartments are to small. You try to persuade them, explaining how many times your luggage was lost, but fail, and your luggage is lost again. Only backpacks (not too large) are safe in this case. To my knowledge, it does not depend on airlines, it happens at all flights and causes troubles. For example, our friends once flew to Utah for a long hike, but on the arrival did not find their luggage with all equipment. Their suitcases arrived only several days later and it wasted a lot of their time. Nobody cares and nobody will reimburse anything. This negligence is quite surprising, taking into account quite high prices on the US airlines (compared to Europe).
I was always interested (and scared to think of at the same time): what happens to those suitcases which never find their ways to their owners. This is quite possible since there are so many similar black suitcases without any identification either inside or outside. In the US such suitcases find their to… Scottsboro. In this Alabama city, there is an Unclaimed Baggage Center advertised all over the state (you will see if you drive). This shop sells things from unclaimed bags, an if your lose yours, it may get here as well.
Among others there are cutlery items with apostles figures, Russian ancient icon, Jewish praying book, quite and old Polish medallion, settings for well-known movies – in other words, things that must have been dear to their owners no less than the dresses from the first lost suitcase (especially before the conference) to me.
Why and how you luggage may get there?
According to their official website, 99.5% of checked-in bags reach their owners straight after the flight (my statistics shows different percentage though). 95% of the rest find their way home within five days. And only in case the suitcases were not claimed for three months, they get to this Center, having agreement with several airlines and bus companies. The clothes and other items which get here are often dirty or wet, so the stuff takes care of them first. I should mention that the employees of the center are very friendly, and there are quite many of them since there are many customers as well. The gadgets which get here are tested first, the data of former owner is erased (rather than used to find him). Price tags are distributed.
Of course, not all the items eventually get to buyers, as passengers carry many weird and unsellable things (the Center’s website even tells about the rattlesnake).
As usually in the US, the shop is a success history. In 1970, its founder Doyle Owens purchased his first load of unclaimed baggage from a bus company having borrowed pick up truck and a $300. The idea became immediately a winner and within a month he leaves his insurance job to become the “bag man” full-time. Soon he signed agreements with airlines and expanded his business which became a family company. What make Doyle and his family rich are also unusual precious artifacts found. For instance, in 1980, employees unpacking an old Gucci suitcase discovered Egyptian artifacts dating back to 1500 BC, later sold through Christie’s auction house in New York. Or a ring with a large diamond. These artifacts attracted the attention of mass media, and TV shows and newspapers made the place even more popular. Nowadays more than 1 million people visit the shop annually. It is not occasional then that the prices here are higher than in the average second-hand or vintage shop.
Note, that most of them are black and keep away from buying a black suitcase for yourself: they are the easiest to lose.
Without saying about great women’s, men’s and kid’s departments.
The conclusion I made from the trip is the following: if you don’t want your personal belongings to be sold, take care of them and keep your suitcases away from airlines’ employees. And never, never put anything really important for you there.