If ever you have arrived at your destination and watched as all of the bags came off the conveyor belt except for yours, then you know firsthand how stressful it can be. Dropping your luggage at the check-in counter is really like placing a bet. You hand your possessions over to a stranger, and spin the wheel, hoping that the payoff is that it will arrive with you at your destination. As a seasoned traveler, I have placed this bet many times…experiencing the thrill of victory when my bags are the first off the belt, and the agony of defeat when it doesn’t show at all (along with the bonus round humiliation of seeing your undergarments come off one by one – the result of a damaged bag). Checking baggage is definitely a crap shoot.
I believe that I am a bit of an expert at missing luggage. I know how to drag myself over to the “lost baggage” room, how to call the toll-free number incessantly, hoping that my bags will mysteriously show up, and I understand the unique feeling of “how did my bags get to Aruba when I was going to Cleveland?” It is really disappointing to realize that your luggage had a better vacation than you! Nonetheless, in all of these incidents (with the exception of one black high heeled shoe and two college textbooks) all of my luggage eventually made its way back to me. Unfortunately, for many, that is not always the case.
Several years ago, I heard of a place called Unclaimed Baggage. This was a place where all those unclaimed or lost items finally would find a home. Sort of a second-hand store for the stuff someone else didn’t plan to lose. The thought of this store has intrigued me ever since I heard about it. So, finally freed from quarantine, my bestie and I decided to roll the dice and take the two-hour drive from our home in Tennessee to Scottsboro, Ala., and check it out for ourselves.
If you are looking for a tourist area, Scottsboro is not it. In fact, the town of Scottsboro was actually kind of sparse. Even though our GPS said we were on the right path, we found ourselves questioning that, since there just wasn’t a whole lot around. That said, it was VERY easy to see “Unclaimed Baggage.” There is an extremely large sign, more than ample parking and very easy to find.
The store itself is large – two stories and laid out much like a department store. When you walk in, you will pass their cafeteria (which is currently closed, due to COVID-19). We were greeted by employees who presented us with freshly sanitized shopping carts. To the right of the entrance is a staircase which leads to the very clean and modern bathrooms, as well as the electronics and travel section.
Most surprising was the travel section itself. While we were expecting to find a large selection of luggage, actually it was very limited, and the pricing wasn’t that competitive. The most interesting luggage item we saw was a trunk that appeared to have lived a past life as a musician road crew trunk. There was a plentiful supply of travel pillows and small duffels, as well as several different types of beach bags.
The electronics were plentiful. I was a bit conflicted as I purchased a seemingly perfect Fifth Generation iPad for a little more than $100. My conflict was based on the fact that I would be profiting from someone else’s loss…but I justified it by thinking that perhaps the person had travel insurance. The iPads were plentiful, as were the laptop computers (both Mac and PC), and cameras. Lots of cameras. And if you are looking for a Kindle or Nook, they were heaped in a bin at about $15 apiece.
The store was stocked full of clothing. Instead of feeling like a second-hand store where items are mishmashed all over, Unclaimed Baggage is extremely organized. Many of the items still had price tags on them, which makes sense – after all, who doesn’t buy a new outfit or two before a great trip? And sizes were plentiful! I was particularly impressed with the formal section – chock full of gorgeous wedding and bridesmaid gowns. I found myself trying to justify how I was going to explain to my husband that I had just bought a wedding gown, before my friend pulled me away. (Yes, they were that nice!)
The only negative comment I can make about our “Unclaimed” experience was the selection of shoes. Where there were plenty of new clothing items, I did not find ANY new shoes – lots of used ones, though. I would have loved to score some great new shoes! That said, there were plenty to choose from, and lots of designer brands.
We found lots of great costume and real jewelry. The cases were managed by friendly staff who shared whatever knowledge they had on the item. We also noticed that there were several items that were copies. When we asked, we were told that Unclaimed Baggage actually buys unclaimed cargo, and that is where a lot of their stock comes from. We found a lot of costume jewelry and tee shirts that came from these hauls. As the staff explained, for the large stores and suppliers, it is easier and more cost effective for them to make an insurance claim on a lost shipment, leaving that cargo as fair game for Unclaimed Baggage to bid on.
At the end of the afternoon, my friend and I were very happy with our shopping spree. She managed to purchase 10 outfits – mostly designer pieces – for a little more than $70. In addition to the iPad, I scored a $4 coverup that still had the $30 tag on it. While we loved the bargains, what impressed us the most was the staff and store. The staff were friendly, the lines moved quickly, and the store was clean, bright and easy to navigate. Because merchandise changes daily, we are eagerly looking forward to our next trip!
To experience Unclaimed Baggage for yourself, it is located at 509 W. Willow St. in Scottsboro, Ala. The store is currently open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) Wednesday to Saturday, but looks forward to returning to a six-day weekly schedule soon. Unclaimed Baggage also is in the process of creating an online shop. Visit the shop’s website at UnclaimedBaggage.com.