Lost Luggages? Try the Unclaimed Baggage store

Mar 29, 2019

Oh, only in America, I feel like saying. But maybe there are more initiatives around the world like the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama?! It’s a 40,000sf store selling clothes, suitcases, surfboards, you name it, that they have purchased from the Lost & Found department of airlines, after the 90-days reunification period has expired and restitution has been paid. I am glad Wendy Perrin visited and reported about it as I found the whole story quite exciting:

the unclaimed baggage center

It all started in 1970 when Doyle Owens bought a pick-up truckload of “unclaimed baggage” from Trailways Bus Lines in Washington, D.C., and brought it to Scottsboro for resale. Today, the store’s stock comes almost solely from the airlines. The Unclaimed Baggage Center buys the unlucky luggage sight unseen and hauls it to Alabama. The contents of each bag are triaged into 25 sub-categories: sell, donate, launder, trash, etc. They claim to have one million visitors a year. Talk about a profitable initiative.

In fact, it’s not too different from a thrift store, except that you might feel a tad shameful to put that little pink coat on miss when another little girl around the world misses it so dearly. Or maybe we’d have to draw the line at teddy bears and cuddly soft toys? Oh, and how about those wedding dresses on display? Were they truly forgotten in the plane or was it a missed act of some sort…

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, fewer than three out of every 1,000 bags checked on domestic flights were lost in 2017. But the Unclaimed Baggage Center stocks 7,000 new items every day. Maybe someone is not saying the truth about numbers.

lonely suitcase on the belt

Meantime, here is the best piece of advice that I have read in order to minimise lost items when travelling.

By E. Belzer: I work at Newark Airport, running a Lost and Found Department for an international airline. Please everyone, put your name, phone number, and email address INSIDE EVERY BAG, be it checked luggage or a carry-on. Grab your business card, and write, “This bag belongs to” and throw it into an interior pocket. You’d be amazed how many times bags are tagless because the mechanical belts caught a bag and ripped everything off. Also: White-Out is forever. On the bottom and back side of your bag, write your first name and initials in White Out. Have your kids draw a character. Anything remarkable. Duct tape gets gooey over time and will come unstuck and clog the belts. White Out will differentiate your bag from everyone else’s. Forget about pink ribbons. They will not help us get your bag back to YOU. And, remember, airline counter agents are human and make mistakes. Be vigilant. Watch them when you check in. Make sure they print and affix a bag tag to your suitcase, and that they give you the receipt! If you are prone to losing this little slip of paper, snap a photo of it, and then stow it away in your wallet. It is your only proof that you checked in a piece of luggage, and you will need it if you need to file a claim.

Ahhh.. if only I had read this advice before forgetting my beloved Zucca coat in the Eurostar last month!

How Not To Lose Your Luggage in the First Place

* Make sure your name, mobile phone number, and email address are attached to the bag in a way that can’t get caught and removed in the machinery of the baggage systems.

* Put the same information on at least one piece of paper taped inside the bag too, so that it is the first thing someone will see when opened. Always put your name and mobile number on your kids’ carry-ons too, as well as on electronics and other valuables inside the carry-ons.

* If your luggage is the same color as everyone else’s, then affix something to your bag to differentiate it (white out!) so that other passengers don’t mistake your bag for theirs and run off with it.

* Use your smartphone to snap a quick photo of each bag you check. If the airline loses it, a picture of your bag will be worth a thousand words.

* Get to the baggage carousel before it starts disgorging bags. If you’re not there when your luggage comes out, it’s more likely to go astray.

And if you ever visit the store, the Unclaimed Baggage has a section on its website detailing the Things to Do in the area. Please let me know what treasures you’ll find.

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