What happens to airline bags that go unclaimed or are permanently separated from their owners? They end up in Scottsboro, Ala.
Like most Southern towns, Scottsboro is a ring of shops – café, antique stores, feed store – surrounding the courthouse. But a couple of blocks away sits a 40,000-square-foot department store filled with the remains of what was once someone’s checked luggage.
For more than 30 years, the Unclaimed Baggage Center has worked with major U.S. airlines, buying the ½ of 1 percent of bags each year that go unmatched with their owners, says spokesman Brenda Cantrell. Some are bags nobody bothered with; some are cargo shipments trapped in red tape. Others are bags that lost their ID tags (a reason, says Cantrell, to put multiple tags both inside and out.)
A visit is more treasure hunt than true shopping excursion. Had they fit, I would have come home with a pair of Ferragamo sandals with cork heels that looked completely unworn for $200 minus a 25 percent discount being offered on some items. Other options included rollaboard suitcases (from $8), long-sleeve T-shirts (from $5), collapsible strollers (from $2), an Ipod ($160), full-length mink coat ($1,000), paperback books (from $2), a Tiffany stainless tank watch ($700) and a kitchen sink – stainless, with two washing bins -- $45.
Not all have been "previously used.'' Those that came from cargo shipment sometimes still have their manufacturer's tags on them.
The ambiance is TJ Maxx-like: a big open space with sections for men’s clothing, women’s clothing, jewelry, etc. “Some people expect a warehouse, other people expect to find suitcases that they rummage through,’’ said Cantrell. “They’re surprised to find it’s so nice.’’
In case you’re heading this way, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is about an hour west of Chattanooga, an hour east of Huntsville – and about an hour southeast of the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. Open Monday-Saturday.
Photos courtesy of Unclaimed Baggage Center.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 7:00 PM