Unclaimed Baggage Center: A Retail Store of Lost Luggage Contents

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to lost airline baggage, it might surprise you to learn that it actually ends up in Scottsboro, Ala., at the Unclaimed Baggage Center. It's not a facility associated with the airlines, but a retail store that sells the contents of lost or unclaimed airline luggage. The store has received national attention over the years, including mentions on the Late Night with David Letterman and the Today show. At Unclaimed Baggage Center you can buy a lost $1,000 Versace dress for $55, an Adidas jacket for $15, a tube of slightly used Japanese toothpaste for 50 cents, a $15,000 sapphire and diamond bracelet for $7,500, and gold wedding bands and pearl necklaces are priced at half their value. Over a million customers visit the 50,000-square-foot store each year to browse through some of the 7,000 items added each day. It all started in 1970, when an insurance salesman named H. Doyle Owens borrowed $300 and a pickup truck and bought a hundred or so bags left on Greyhound buses. He brought them back to Scottsboro, a town with a population of about 15,000, expecting to sell them off within a couple of weeks. He was surprised to find all the items were gone in just one day. For Owens, it was just a part-time business until 1978. Now, the Unclaimed Baggage Center covers an entire city block and employs 110 workers. Approximately 60% of the items sold are clothing, which is cleaned and pressed in one of the largest laundry facilities in the state.