Ever had an airline lose your luggage? If you never got it back, there's a good chance it ended up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. While airlines do their best to reunite lost luggage with its owner, about .005 percent of the time that just isn't possible. In those cases, the bags get sold and shipped to the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
So, What Is It?
It's a giant store that sorts, cleans, tests, and sells all of those lost items to consumers like you. Yep, you can actually buy the contents of other people's luggage. And since the prices are anywhere from 20-80 percent off retail, you'll definitely want to.
Their 40,000 square-foot facility is neatly arranged by department and boasts a wide range of merchandise. With over 7,000 new items added daily, there's always something new to check out, including lots of designer labels. And the quality of the items is generally very good since people tend to pack their best stuff when they travel.
While there may be some things you choose to pass on -- used underwear and swimsuits, for example -- all clothing is professionally dry-cleaned before it hits the sales floor, and the store is as easy to shop as any department store. Sound like your kind of place? Here are some things you should know before you go.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center is located at 509 W. Willow St. in Scottsboro, Alabama (about 40 minutes outside of Huntsville).
What You'll Find
- Electronics (laptops, tablets, cameras, video games)
- Sporting goods
- Eyewear (both sunglasses and prescription glasses)
- Purses, bags, and luggage
- Some things you'll just have to see to believe
You'll Like It If...
- You want the latest fashions and gadgets and are willing to pay half-price for them
- You enjoy searching through stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls for designer labels
- You enjoy wearing clothing from overseas designers
You May Not Like It If...
- You're used to paying thrift store or yard sale prices for your belongings
- You don't like crowds
- You're not into labels
- You're squeamish about buying used stuff
Tips for a Successful Shopping Trip
- Shop on a weekday to avoid the crowds
- Be sure to visit the Etc. store housed in a separate building (use the door in the men's department to reach it). It contains another 4,000 square feet or merchandise, including the children's, household, and tools departments. You'll find new roll-outs and the clearance section there, too.
- Sign up for the Unclaimed Baggage Center e-newsletter to receive sales alerts
- Make a pit stop before you go. There are only two stalls each in the men's and women's bathroom, and the lines stay long
Other Things to See and Do
Be sure to check out the Unclaimed Baggage Center Museum. It showcases some of the strange and spectacular things that have turned up in luggage over the years.
And you definitely don't want to miss the Baggage Experience at 2:30 p.m. each day, where you can watch them go through an unprocessed bag. Sometimes they even give away the contents of the bag!
In the mood for a bit of pampering? Stop by guest services for a free 90-minute personal shopper session. They'll help you uncover the best stuff at UBC.
And, if you get hungry (or thirsty) while you're shopping, there's also a cafe on site.
The Biggest Bargains
Coats and shoes are the stand-out bargains. You'll find winter coats for as little as $8 and brand new shoes for half their regular retail. This is a great place to get high-end sneakers for low-end sneaker prices.
Cameras are a bargain, too. Prices start at just $25 for a good quality digital camera.
If discounts of 80 percent are more your thing, check out their selection of hats, gloves, and socks. Accessories seem to get the biggest discount, and there are lots of new-in-package socks to choose from.
More Things to Do in the Area
Planning to make a road trip of it? There are lots of fun places to visit in the area, including the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the Birmingham Botanical Garden.