We need to get in on this scam …
When an airline loses your luggage, you have 90 days before it becomes someone else's.
It doesn't matter if inside that luggage is your grandma's ashes or your wedding dress. It's irrelevant if it was your fault or the airline's that your luggage disappeared. No es importante if, 90 days later, you're still actively searching for it. After three months, airlines sell your belongings to the highest bidder for profit.
And in most cases, the highest bidder is the Alabama-based Unclaimed Baggage Center. They buy up lost luggage from airlines like it was molly at a Skrillex show using confidential, exclusive contracts with major United States-based airlines. When they get their cash, the airlines load suitcases and other stuff from airports onto trucks and haul them back to Unclaimed's home turf in the tiny city of Scottsboro, Alabama.
When it gets to Unclaimed, your lost bags shed your ownership in favor for a new life. Inside its hallowed walls, lost baggage and its contents are for sale to whoever's interested. Which means some man named Bubba is probably using your vibrator as a rolling pin right now.
Think of it like a secondhand store, only the items for sale were involuntarily surrendered, and some of them are brand new iPads.
Although the frequency of lost checked luggage is declining thanks to improved tracking technology, the boom in small, forgettable carry-on items like cell phones and baby clothes is booming. That's a nice, fuzzy fact that means resale luggage businesses like Unclaimed alive and well.
“Business is great,” said Brenda Cantrell, the Unclaimed spokeswoman.
Business must be great, considering the insanely diverse selection of orphaned belongings that make their ways into the store. Somehow, some way, things like wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, full suits of armor and rare musical instruments are forgotten or abandoned by passengers and airlines. But they also get enough discarded electronics for them to refer to themselves as "quite the Apple store." Brand new laptops, iPads, Kindles, and cameras glitter in display cases, beckoning you with discounted prices and the thrill of looking through someone else's candid iPhone selfies. Some items are so unusual that they relegated to the company's “museum,” or exhibited on the store walls where they are not for sale.
According to the New York Times, at one point there was an exhibit of a tribal breastplate and an African drum.
In fact, the bizarre and vast selection at Unclaimed has lead them to make a signature boast: "There's no other place like it."
Damn straight. There's no other place that has our favorite toothbrush and our lucky jockstrap (which we're sorely missing) in one location.
The most expensive thing ever to grave the interior walls of Unclaimed was a Rolex watch, that went for a hearty $30K. Behind that infamous purchase, wedding dresses, laptops and nice ass coats make up the majority of higher-end human detritus for sale at Unclaimed.
Unclaimed is able to keep up its infamous selection due to the relative frequency of mishandled luggage in the Untied States. For every 1,000 fliers in the United States in the first six months of this year, 3.86 dealt with mishandled bags, according to the Department of Transportation. The rate is about half the peak in 2007, but it is enough to keep Unclaimed’s trucks rolling in, full of your commemorative vacation souvenirs.
Significant competition from similar businesses has been foiled thanks to what Cantrell says are "exclusive deals and strong relationships with airlines," so while other reclaimed luggage operations do exist, they're small-time compared to Unclaimed. So, if you're still searching for your bags after 90 days because they say, contain thousands of dollars worth of Beanie Babies, don't give up hope. Give up your paycheck instead and use it to buy airfare to Scottsboro, Alabama. Your shit is probably there, waiting for you.
The only thing that threatens Unclaimed's reign of resale would be technology that offers more effective luggage tracking, like radio frequency identification devices. But until airlines can get you from New York to L.A. without spilling the contents of your life across the entire country, we think Unclaimed will do just fine.