Lost Travel Treasures

Droves of consumers, from as far away as Russia and Australia, are flocking to a little-known treasure chest called Unclaimed Baggage Center. It’s a clearing house for lost and unclaimed airline baggage, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Scottsboro, Alabama, where shoppers can swoop up quality, second-hand items at 50%-80% below retail price.

Margaret and Vernite Johnson, also of Scottsboro, have shopped at UBC (www .unclaimedbaggage.com; 256-259-1525) since it opened in 1970. “I have to come every day to see what’s here because you can find great bargains,” says Margaret. “My husband bought a brand new, gray, full-length leather coat for only $50. You can’t beat that price!”

While only .005% of all checked baggage is permanently lost, airlines make every attempt to reunite unclaimed items with their owners. At Southwest Airlines, for example, if the owner is not located within three to four months, the merchandise is sold to a service like UBC, says spokesperson Angela Vargo.

Some of the Center’s recent finds include a men’s Burberry overcoat selling for $78, which retails for $400-$450; a Canon Sure Shot A1 camera priced at $65, which retails for $229; and CDs ranging from $3.50 to $5. What’s more, all of the items sold are in quality condition. The clothing, for instance, is professionally dry cleaned and laundered.

Whether you are visiting UBC from a nearby location or from halfway around the world, here’s an invaluable tip: “One of the lessons you have to learn while shopping here is if you see it now, chances are it will not be there if you come back,” says Brenda O. Cantrell, UBC’s marketing manager. “So, you have to pick it up when you see it [while you] can still get your hands on it.”