As scary as the possibility of losing luggage may seem to many travelers — who will frequently go through serious hoops to fly carry-on only — the chances of permanently losing your stuff is actually very small. (So relax.)
Of the billion or so passenger bags checked every year, just about one percent fail to connect with their owners on the carousel, and most of that single remaining percent eventually hit their marks. But the story of those bags that are permanently lost is pretty fasinating.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center, a unique Alabama store that buys and sells lost luggage from the airlines, shared some of the specific background behind the process from 45 years in the extremely niche biz.
1. Lost luggage heads to Alabama.
Specifically, to Scottsboro, Alabama. After an exhaustive 90-day search by the airlines to reunite a bag with its rightful owner, the Unclaimed Baggage Center store purchases the unclaimed items from the airlines and those items go to the 40,000-square-foot store down south.
2. Lost luggage is sorted into categories.
Lost items are thrown away, sold, or donated. Only about one-third of the purchased products make it to the floor of the retail store, which accounts for about 7,000 new items being making their way to the store floor every day. Items that can't be sold are either repurposed or tossed as trash.
3. Your stuff could go to a good cause.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center partners with local, regional, and even global mission organizations, so your stuff might find its way to charity. For example, hundreds of thousands of eyeglasses are donated to The Lions Club Sight First program; broken wheelchairs are rebuilt for children and adults in need around the world; millions of dollars worth of medical supplies are donated to developing countries. How cool is that?
4. People can straight-up shop for lost items.
You know you'd make a stop to shop at the Unclaimed Baggage Center — even if just for downright curiosity. The store covers more than a whole city block and attracts more than a million visitors a year from every state — and over 40 countries! So you, and other gawkers and serious shoppers, can go browse for stuff like clothes, electronics, home furnishings, books, jewelry, and other lost treasures.
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