I’ve always wanted to go there. Once even, we were in the area and on our way – then realized it was Sunday and they were closed.
But last Friday, I finally got the opportunity to go to the National Mecca of deals shopping. And it was marvelous, so I’m going to take you on a tour.
My destination was Unclaimed Baggage, one of the top tourist destinations in the Great State of Alabama.
Tucked between elegant mountains in the quaint city of Scottsboro, Unclaimed Baggage is the one and only seller of America’s lost luggage. Which, as opposed to a thrift store which sells things that people didn’t want, they’re selling stuff that people really, really wanted – so much so that they packed it and took it on an airplane.
Granted, it sounds sad at first, but here’s how it all goes down:
If a checked bag is lost, the airline is liable for 90 days to match it to a passenger. If they can’t do that, the bags get sold to Unclaimed Baggage, and the passenger in question gets a settlement check from the airline for the contents of their bag. Astonishingly enough, this happens to a ridiculously tiny percentage of luggage, hence the reason that there’s only one Unclaimed Baggage store in America.
Within those bags and shipping containers, Unclaimed Baggage finds some fascinating items.
Like Hoggle, who got lost on his way back from New Zealand after filming the movie Labyrinth.
And vintage McDonald’s signs.
And a giant, very old French magazine.
And Tinkerbell herself, who apparently took a wrong turn after the Second Star.
The walls of the store are decorated with dozens of unique museum pieces like the ones above, and they regularly rotate them because they have so many items of interest.
Unclaimed Baggage was kind enough to invite a group of regional bloggers to experience their store, and I’m so very glad that they did, since it gave me the excuse I needed to finally make my first visit. It’s only two hours north of Birmingham, the perfect amount of time for me to have the car (and radio) to myself.
And as a bonus, about ten minutes from my destination, I discovered Weathington Park, which had, oh, you know, a marginally interesting view.
I texted the above picture to Chris and he replied with “I’ll pick up the kids from your Mom. You can stay until sunset.” Who knows why he would have gotten the idea that I was thinking about doing THAT. But I did stay until the late afternoon, and it was glorious.
(If that view looks familiar, it’s because it’s only a few miles and overlooking the same lake as one of my favorite Alabama retreating spots, Gorham’s Bluff, to which I am now seriously craving a visit.)
So back to Unclaimed Baggage.
They have a monitor at the front entrance where you can place yourself on the map. I believe one of those dots is Fiji…but I could be wrong.
The store is separated into several rooms, all large and well-organized like a department store.
And thankfully, it doesn’t smell like a Thrift Store, because they launder all clothing, consequently awarding them with the largest dry cleaning facility in Alabama.
Although I didn’t buy any, I found some fantastic brands – Joe’s Jeans, True Religion, Antik, 7 for All Mankind, and more. And even the designer brands were very inexpensive – some even less than $10.
The men’s jeans had even more designer pairs mixed in, where I saw Silver, Joe’s Jeans, and a brand new pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans for $35!! That’s basically…80% off.
I also browsed through outerwear, which were divided up into leather, denim, and coats.
I found this fantastic gray Alfani Leather Jacket (oh-so-soft) for $20. And I did not pass that deal up.
(I realize that a good blogger would not use her dressing room selfie in a post but instead would pose herself perfectly coifed and with a head at a later time. But I am not that blogger.)
(And yes, I also got the brand-new-with-tags $14 maxi dress underneath. But it is only wearable when cold enough to keep the jacket on or while wearing triple-Spanx, thanks to my twice-c-sectioned and artisan-chocolate-filled belly. But I adored it enough to make those sacrifices.)
I also bought Chris nine very nice polo shirts, 5 of which still had the tags on them, for $1 each. And the top ones are coral, not orange, so he can indeed wear them.
Another fun area is the electronics room.
Airlines have no liability to try and find the owners of carry-on items left behind, so when they announce “Make sure you pick up all electronic devices,” they mean it. Because if you don’t, your iPad will end up wiped clean and in this cabinet.
They had a cabinet for every electronic device imaginable – Kindles, Nooks, laptops, Dr. Dre Headphones, cameras…they were endless. They also had less expensive items out for perusal, including Leapsters (where I got Ali and Noah a new game for $3.49),
and headphones in every shape and size (obviously a common item left behind.)
And of course, they have a luggage section.
The jewelry cases were unbelievable, stocked with gorgeous and quite real items, all priced at 50% of appraisal.
They’ve had some fantastic items come through, including a $40,000 diamond ring and this solid ruby belt buckle:
I’d hate to be the airline that had to pay up on that loss.
I tried on this $5,000 black diamond bracelet and pretended for a moment that I was Princess Kate, perfect post-pregnancy body and all.
My favorite section was the international clothing. There were just so many stunning pieces that made me realize how unelaborate all American clothing is, all for $6-12. I bought an outfit for every member of our family, with which Chris is helping me construct a Halloween plan for this year’s Trunk and Treat.
After we ate lunch at the in-store café,
We got to see the newest feature of the store: The Baggage Experience.
They chose one person to get to open and unpack a bag. I was beyond jealous.
And was immediately convinced that I was meant for this job – it would be the amphetamines my insatiably nosy side always dreamed of.
She found a laptop,
Russian Phrases for Dummies,
A souvenir bag with Russian Nesting Eggs,
And lots of extra extra-extra-small clothes turned inside out. Who knew that some people turn dirty clothes inside out to delineate them from clean clothes? That is not my packing system.
So, as we profiled this Russian Tourist, they sorted the items found:
I would absolutely spend a day or a week or a month, free of pay, unpacking luggage. For a person who would describe one of her hobbies as stalking, it would be more than kind of fantastic.
(No. I’m not the least bit creepy. Why do you ask?)
And sometimes, even celebrities lose luggage – and I want to be there to unpack them.
In the early 80’s, Unclaimed Baggage found Bing Crosby’s wife’s cross stitch. They returned it to her, and she sent them a thank you note, along with a signed copy of a book that she wrote about Bing.
But I think I found a few more celebrity’s items while shopping.
Sheri Lewis clearly lost her Lamb Chops pants,
Cee Lo lost his favorite pair of blue jeans,
And Julia Roberts lost her Pre-Richard Gere Pretty Woman wardrobe.
…or perhaps she purposefully left it unclaimed.
My favorite categorization in the entire store was in the lingerie section: a rack, labeled “Lingerie”, and full of jeggings.
Yes, that’s right, people: JEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS. Unclaimed Baggage knows it, and so should everyone else.
Disclosure: As mentioned, I was invited for a blogger getaway day. However, all opinions are my own and the invitation just served as a thrilling excuse to finally make a long overdue visit. All opinions are my own and I’m already planning my return trip.