IT IS  a moment every traveller dreads. You wait for your luggage at the carousel after a flight, but the last bags come and go, and yours isn’t among them. You leave your name and number with the airline and wait for a call. Weeks go by; the phone never rings.

Is there any hope of tracking down these lost items? There could be, but it might require a trip to a small town in the wilderness of northeastern Alabama. And some luck.

All across America, bags routinely go missing and unclaimed, for a variety of reasons. All of them make a strange journey to a remote corner of the country and a gigantic thrift store in Scottsboro, Alabama, where they are unpacked and the contents sold to shoppers.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center (UBC, pictured) began as a one-man operation in 1970, when Doyle Owens borrowed a pickup truck, drove to Washington, DC, and used a $300 loan to buy his first load of orphaned luggage. Today the company has exclusive contracts with American airlines, giving it sole rights to purchase and sell detritus from flights. The UBC claims to be one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions, drawing more than a million visitors a year from around the...Continue reading