All the Things You Didn’t Realize You Could Get From Unclaimed Luggage
Flying is safer than it has ever been, but airlines still aren’t the best at protecting our luggage—with some 26 million bags getting lost or damaged in transit in 2022 alone. While most lost luggage gets claimed eventually, sometimes people just never come looking for their bags, or the system breaks down and the location of the missing bags remains shrouded in mystery.
When that happens, one person’s loss can become your gain, because a lot of that lost luggage will be sorted, inspected, cleaned, and put up for sale at ludicrously low prices.
Where to find lost luggage items for sale
There are two primary ways to shop lost or abandoned luggage:
Unclaimed Baggage. Established in 1970, this massive store in Scottsboro, Alabama buys lost luggage from airports all over the country and puts the contents up for sale. You can visit the physical location (many folks consider it a fun tourist activity), shop the website, or wait for one of the occasional auction events the store organizes in other locations. The store opens every bag, cleans and tests everything they find, and has a staff of experts to appraise items. You can save an incredible amount of money as long as you’re willing to wear or use someone’s lost items.
GovDeals. The other end of the luggage bargain spectrum is seized items—as in, the stuff airport security won’t let you take to the gate. You usually have some options here: You can put the item in a checked bag, mail it to yourself, or hand it to someone who’s not traveling. But a lot of folks take the easiest option, which is to surrender the item to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which eventually puts the items up for auction at GovDeals. This is an auction site, so you’ll be bidding on lots—often bizarre lots, like random collections of scissors—and it also offers items confiscated by other government agencies.
Between these two sources, you can buy almost anything you can think of, often at incredible discounts.
Things you can buy from lost luggage (a sampling)
The most obvious stuff you can source from lost and unclaimed luggage is clothing, as that’s usually the bulk of what people pack for a trip. You can find everything from underwear and lingerie to men’s suits, boots, women’s dresses, and all the accessories you could ever want. The clothing is cleaned and checked for damage before being sold (underwear is only sold new, with or without a box). You can also find a lot of designer stuff there, and while it’s not exactly free, it’s often sold at a discount.
Speaking of luxury items, you can find everything from watches and jewelry to designer handbags of all types. You might think pricey stuff like this would motivate folks to locate their lost bags, but you would be wrong. It’s important to note that Unclaimed Baggage knows the market value of these items, so getting a great deal isn’t always easy—they often price particularly popular designer goods close to market value. But even a small discount is worth the trouble, and you can often find rare or discontinued items there at relatively bargain prices. (Check the clearance section at Unclaimed Baggage if you’re seeking bargains.)
Although not consistently stocked (because who packs their wedding dress in luggage?) it’s not unheard of for wedding dresses to turn up at Unclaimed Baggage at steep discounts. While your chances of finding one in your size and style are a bit steep, it might be worth checking in regularly if you’re trying to snag a bargain dress for the big day. (One couple actually took this to the extreme and actually got married at Unclaimed Baggage, but that might be a bridge too far.)
One of the most powerful uses of lost luggage shopping is all the electronics people leave behind. Want a laptop for less than $100? You got it. iPads? Yep. Phones? Both super cheap and super expensive. Airpods, game systems, smart watches—anything you need, you can probably find in someone’s lost bags.
You can find almost anything at an unclaimed luggage site—from books to perfume, pet supplies to gaming dice. Basically, if it can conceivably be packed in rolling luggage, you can probably find it at the unclaimed bag store. And save some money while you’re at it.