"" Writer's Wanderings: Where Does Unclaimed Baggage Go?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Where Does Unclaimed Baggage Go?

This is hard to believe but a facility in Alabama is the collection center for thousands of pieces of unclaimed baggage. I can understand there being a lot of lost baggage but I can't imagine anyone leaving a bag on the luggage belt to go round and round until it's eventually set aside and after 90 days of trying to find the owner, sent off to be disposed of in Alabama. Now that doesn't mean it is trashed. Oh no. Let me explain.

It all started with Doyle Owens back in 1970. He was apart-time insurance salesman in Scottsboro and the son of a general store merchant who had a friend working with a bus company in Washington, DC. The friend asked Owens if he might be interested in buying lost luggage from the bus company and reselling the contents. Owens saw an opportunity and took his pickup truck to DC for his first load. His wife, Sue, sorted the contents, priced it and the two set up a table and sold what they found.The business eventually grew to include luggage left behind at taxi companies, car rentals, commuter trains and of course the airlines.

Eventually it became one of Alabama's most unique businesses, the Unclaimed Baggage Center. The center was purchased in 1995 by Doyle's son, Bryan and now covers a city block. And of course it is open to the public for exploring and buying items left behind and unclaimed by travelers from all over the globe.

Everyday at 2:30 PM you can have the unique experience of watching as baggage is opened and discoveries made. Some of the more unusual things that have been found are a shrunken head, a 40 carat emerald, a suit of armor, and the ever popular vacuum packed bag of frogs. As they open the luggage and go through the contents there are four piles it can end up in, clean it, sell it, trash it or give it away. I'm assuming the clean it pile ends up in the sell it pile eventually.

There are bargains to be had at the store. IPads, cameras, clothing (a Versace dress was found in one suitcase), etc. A vase was sold for $80 and later found to be worth $18,000. Unbelievable isn't it that people would not be able to track down that kind of valuable stuff! And then there was the camera from a space shuttle (it was returned to NASA) and a missile guidance system for a fighter jet (returned to the Air Force).

If we are ever anywhere near Scottsboro, Alabama, you can bet we're making a stop.

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