Unclaimed Baggage sells items found in lost baggage at deep discounts

Light beam? No valuables in checked baggage? A new report explains what happens when these basic rules are broken.

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Live snakes, mounted ram's head, Halloween card signed by Richard Nixon.

These are some of the most amazing items found in lost luggage in 2023, according to a new report from Unclaimed Baggage, a store that buys lost items from airlines, without anyone seeing them.

The company also found a 13-foot basement shaft, gruesome items from the “Saw” film series, and a pair of Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 sneakers worth $12,000.

These elements and more were detailed in the company’s first report.”Found report: A look inside America's lost luggage“, published on April 1.

“We thought it would be fun for us to publish an annual report that captures the most popular, most expensive, and weird and wonderful items,” CEO Brian Owens told CNBC Travel.

The most expensive items found this year, according to the list, are a diamond ring (assessed at $37,050), a Cartier Panthère watch ($26,500), and an Hermes Birkin 25 bag ($23,500).

The company has long-term contracts to purchase unclaimed items from airlines, as well as hotels, trains and car rental companies. It processes tens of thousands of items weekly; About a third is sold, another third is donated, and the rest is recycled, he said.

“We live in a world of all things lost,” Owens said. “It's a bit like Christmas every day.”

Today, Unclaimed Baggage's retail store in Scottsboro is larger than a city block, and the company employs more than 250 people, he said. The thrill of the search—and the sheer possibility of what might be found—attracts people from near and far.

“We have a million people a year… from every state in America and in 40 countries,” he said. “We have customers from the West Coast, and they will fly in a few times. I remember there are customers from the U.K. who only fly in once a year to shop.”

The Unclaimed Baggage and Found Treasures Museum opens in Scottsboro, Alabama, in 2023 to showcase the strangest items acquired over the years. This display shows a replica of shrunken human heads, similar to the real ones found inside a missing suitcase.

Source: Unclaimed Baggage

Discounts range from 20% to 80%, depending on the item, Owens says, with clothing marked down more, and Rolex watches less. He said the company wants to give customers a deal, but without incentivizing sellers.

One customer, supposedly a cruise ship employee, was buying “a ton” of Kindle devices and reselling them in coastal towns, Owens said.

“We want someone to get a deal they can't get elsewhere, but…we're not in an arbitrage business.”

Authentication is an important part of the job, whether it's for the sake of it, Owens said Louis Vuitton luggage Or a pair of Balenciaga sneakers. He likened identifying items in the missing luggage to an “archaeological dig.”

In rare cases, items are returned to their rightful owners, he said.

“We had a guy from Atlanta…who bought a pair of women's figure skates for his girlfriend,” he said. “She pulled out her tongue…and her name was deep inside the shoe. She lost her shoe, and the airlines paid for it. Then he found it in the unclaimed baggage and returned it to her.”

Luxury goods — from brands like Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and Yves Saint Laurent — are on sale at the Unclaimed Baggage retail store in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Source: Unclaimed Baggage

The company also finds items with unclaimed baggage price tags, meaning they were lost once, bought by the company, sold to a new owner and then lost again afterward.

But what about angry travelers who claim items in the store are their lost property?

“By the time we get the property, they have gone through an extensive search process, and they have settled all their claims,” Owens said, adding that this typically takes about 90 days.

Owens has also found some gems over the years, including the jacket he was wearing when he spoke to CNBC Travel. He added that he discovered this while talking to a customer in the store.

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“I looked at the rack and said, 'I really like this sport coat,'” he said.

As it turned out, it was a jacket from a luxury Italian brand Ketone.

“I wouldn't pay that price on my own, but it's a $10,000 sports coat,” he said.

Price in his store: $999.

For every 1,000 passengers, 7.6 bags are mishandled SITA's 2023 Baggage IT Insights a report. Of these, 80% are delayed and will eventually be returned to their owners; 13% damaged or stolen; She said that 7% of them were lost or stolen.

“Airlines do a good job of reuniting passengers with bags,” Owens said. “It's a small percentage of bags shipped that end up getting lost.”

Huggle, a puppet from the 1986 David Bowie film “Labyrinth,” is at Unclaimed Baggage’s “Found Treasures” museum in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Source: Unclaimed Baggage

According to the Unclaimed Baggage Finding Report, the most common reason for lost bags is a lack of identification on or inside the bag.

The company recommends that travelers attach a sturdy luggage tag to their bags, and place a piece of paper or business card containing their contact details and travel itinerary inside.

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