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Where unclaimed baggage goes and how you can claim it

unclaimed baggage
Posted at 1:30 PM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 16:35:24-04

SCOTTSBORO, Ala.  — Scottsboro, Alabama is a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It's the last place anyone would think to find a place like Unclaimed Baggage.

It’s a business that’s been around since 1970.

“We truly believe that when a suitcase goes unclaimed, it’s orphaned," said Jennifer Kritner, the vice president of Retail and Company Culture at Unclaimed Baggage.

Airlines are able to reunite 99.5% of unclaimed bags. The other .5% goes to Unclaimed Baggage. The business has an exclusive contract with all the major airlines to purchase their unclaimed baggage.

“So that fraction of 1%, albeit small, when there are millions of people traveling every single day, it really does add up to quite a substantial amount of product," Kritner said. “We only sell a third of the items that we receive through unclaimed baggage. We recycle a third and then we donate a third.”

The business came to be thanks to Doyle Owens.

"What you need to know is Mr. Owens was a ham radio operator. That was one of his hobbies that he did on the side and he has a friend in Trailways bus lines that did the same thing," Kritner said.

That friend just so happened to have miscellaneous luggage that he needed to get rid of.

“So he borrowed a pick up truck, $300 and he went to Washington D.C. at Trailways bus lines to pick up his very first load of unclaimed baggage," Kritner said.

Traveling from the nation’s capital back to this small town with about 110 suitcases, a single ad in the newspaper helped him sell out in the very first day, and Unclaimed Baggage was born.

Every bag has its own personality and its own story, many of which will never be explained.

“Recently, I helped open a bag and it had men’s kind of athleisure in it. Pretty standard, but then it had Tupperware in it, it had a bath mat and it had the faucet to a bathroom sink. And it’s like what why, why why was he traveling with this combination of things," Kritner wondered.

Nearly 1 million guests visit the store every year to dig for deals.

"Some of this you're surprised that people left on the airplane," said one customer.

“I want to know these peoples stories like where did this come from," said another customer.

It’s a treasure hunt filled with diamonds in the rough.

“You just never know what you’re going to find when you open a suitcase or when you shop in the store," Kritner said. “Gosh, if these bags could talk.”