I love to travel. Well, I don’t know if I love the travel portion as much as I love arriving to and from my destination safely and WITH my luggage! According to the airlines they only “mishandle” .5% of the luggage; “mishandled” meaning it is damaged, missing items, or does not arrive at the same time as the passenger. Still, that means 10,000 bags per day are “mishandled.” Approximately 100 of those bags are lost forever and never re-united with their owners. So, where do those bags end up?
They end up in Alabama.
Yes, Scottsboro, Alabama is home to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where people can literally go and shop for other’s lost goods. Here the contents are sorted, cleaned and priced for sale – they go through about 1 million items each year. Of course, some very interesting things have been found; a 40.95-carat natural emerald, Egyptian artifacts dating back to 1500 BC (including a mummified falcon and a shrunken head), and a Barbie doll with $500 hidden inside! For more interesting items click here. You can even take an online tour of the store to check out some of the latest treasures.
The airlines do a 90 day intensive search to find the rightful owners, and if they simply cannot be found, the luggage and all its goods are sent to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Lots of people, however, find the Unclaimed Baggage Center. The center attracts approximately 800,000 visitors a year. Many come in search of one-of-a-kind bargains, others come simply out of curiosity. If you want to get a feel for what they buy, check out Peek in the Bag; here you’ll see someone’s actual receipt, including the items they purchased and their costs.
So, how can you avoid your suitcase and contents ending up in Alabama? First of all, make sure to have all your contact information like flight itinerary and travel/hotel information stored securely inside your bag. That way if any of your luggage tags are removed in route, they can find all the information inside and contact you. Also, make sure that the person checking in your luggage has the correct destination on the tag. And keep those baggage claim tags in a safe spot!
Of course, do not put anything expensive in your checked luggage, some rather spend-y items have been found and sold at the Unclaimed Baggage Center; Versace dresses, jewelry, watches, diamonds and more. As well, do not overstuff your bag, if it bursts open, it has a much higher chance of becoming unclaimed.
Losing luggage brings up a most disheartening moment; at the luggage carousel, you watch one lucky passenger after another claim their carefully packed suitcases and once the carousel has been emptied of its baggage bounty, there you stand, wondering where your dear luggage has gone. . . . .
You can always pray. A Catholic friend of mine suggests St. Anthony of Padua, who is the Catholic Patron Saint of Lost Things. If you need instructions on how to pray for lost items, the author of this E-How article shows you how. The author claims that praying to St. Anthony has worked for them about 90% of the time. My guess is that when one of us has lost our luggage, we may well be inclined to pray; may as well go with the saint that has a knack for finding lost things.
Please share you lost luggage stories and hints for not losing luggage with me below!