Ever wonder what happens to unclaimed baggage?
One place it goes to is Scottsboro, Alabama, to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where previously lost or forgotten items find a new home. After a predetermined search period, most major airlines reimburse customers for lost baggage after which any found luggage—and its contents—can be sold. The same rules apply to unclaimed cargo.
Unclaimed Baggage Center started in 1970 as a part-time business when the owners drove to Washington, D.C., to claim their first load of unclaimed baggage. In 1995, the store expanded and is now the size of a full city block. More than 7,000 new items are added every day.
Merchandise is 60 percent clothing, while other items include cameras, electronics, jewelry, sporting goods, books, and the luggage itself. UBC has many stories of more unique items, such as a full suit of armor, gemstones, a complete parachute, a guidance system for an F-16 fighter jet, and even a live rattlesnake.
The store actually encompasses three buildings. The first is the size of a department store with most of the clothing and miscellaneous items. The second is vintage clothing. The third is groceries and gardening items. Yes, groceries from canned goods to baby formula. The entire complex is so big, it’s well worth driving 100 miles out of your way to see it. Be sure to visit the restrooms to see the classic and professional art works.
The on-site museum is where one can find the more exotic, rare, and valuable items. Among the items on display are a violin dating from the 1700s, Egyptian artifacts, and “Hoggle,” the gnome-like gatekeeper from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
More than one million people visit the store each year.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
Know Before You Go
There is ample parking for both cars and RVs.