Alabama’s Shopping Theme Park.

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.

Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, 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.

Hoggle at Unclaimed Baggage

And vintage McDonald’s signs.

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And a giant, very old French magazine.

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And Tinkerbell herself, who apparently took a wrong turn after the Second Star.

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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.

Weathington Park Section Alabama

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.

Weathington Park Section Alabama

(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.

Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro Alabama

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.

Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro Alabama

The store is separated into several rooms, all large and well-organized like a department store.

Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro Alabama

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.

Naturally, I started in the denim section.

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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.

Mens Jeans Unclaimed Baggage

I also browsed through outerwear, which were divided up into leather, denim, and coats.

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I found this fantastic gray Alfani Leather Jacket (oh-so-soft) for $20. And I did not pass that deal up.

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(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.

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Another fun area is the electronics room.

Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro Alabama

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.

Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro Alabama

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),

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and headphones in every shape and size (obviously a common item left behind.)

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And of course, they have a luggage section.

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The jewelry cases were unbelievable, stocked with gorgeous and quite real items, all priced at 50% of appraisal.

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They’ve had some fantastic items come through, including a $40,000 diamond ring and this solid ruby belt buckle:

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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.

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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.

Unclaimed Baggage International Department

After we ate lunch at the in-store café,

Cups Cafe Unclaimed Baggage

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.

Unclaimed Baggage Experience Unpack the Bags

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,

Unclaimed Baggage Experience Unpack the Bags

Russian Phrases for Dummies,

Unclaimed Baggage Experience Unpack the Bags

A souvenir bag with Russian Nesting Eggs,

Unclaimed Baggage Experience Unpack the Bags

Exercise bands,

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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:

Unclaimed Baggage Experience Unpack the Bags

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.

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But I think I found a few more celebrity’s items while shopping.

Sheri Lewis clearly lost her Lamb Chops pants,

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Cee Lo lost his favorite pair of blue jeans,

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And Julia Roberts lost her Pre-Richard Gere Pretty Woman wardrobe.

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…or perhaps she purposefully left it unclaimed.

(I would.)

My favorite categorization in the entire store was in the lingerie section: a rack, labeled “Lingerie”, and full of jeggings.

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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.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. 1
    MamaHen says:

    Oh my stinkin goodness Rachel!!!!! If I could pick anywhere in the world to work right now it would be as the unpacker for this place!!!!! I know I am overly excited, but this is AWESOME! I have been wanting Mark and I to have a getaway day, with just us, but couldn’t think of anything to do that wouldn’t put us in debtor’s prison. This is it! I don’t know if Mark will agree to it though. If not then I am rounding up some friends and we are off. :)

    • 1.1

      Oooh! If you and Mark take a date day, make him take you to Gorham’s Bluff for one night. Or if you want to compromise with him and be slightly more rustic (and cheaper), stay at our favorite secret camping spot, Buck’s Pocket. Both are super nearby and gorgeous.

  2. 2
    deanna says:

    i live about 30 minutes from there. growing up i was obsessed with the labyrinth, and i thought the little exhibit was so amazing. i haven’t been in about five years at least. they have definitely done some remodeling since then.

  3. 3
    Della says:

    This is SO terrific! I’m glad you got to go and score so much fantastic stuff. I’m officially adding this to my list of nontraditional vacations that I would like to take. Also on that list, a trip to Minnesota to taste the original juicy lucy hamburger…

  4. 4
    Elaine Williams says:

    Thanks for the post and all the photos! I had an opportunity to go to Unclaimed Baggage once, but had less than an hour to browse (cry, sniff). I did manage to buy a black quilted jacket, very lightweight, which I still have. You’ve reminded me that I’ve GOT to go back.. You just can’t believe what people lose until you see it with your own eyes.

  5. 5
    Melanie Miller says:

    Wow! What a great place! I never knew it even existed. That electronics section would be a great place to do some Christmas shopping. I will add this to the list of reasons to visit Alabama.

  6. 6

    That store sounds amazing! I would LOVE to wander through that international clothing section for a while…

  7. 7
    Adrienne says:

    I can’t believe you had never been there!! Coolest place ever! (except maybe the part where they have unclaimed jockstraps hanging on hangers… i was a little scarred after that).

  8. 8
    Hunter Murphy says:

    Rachel, I grew up in Scottsboro so I certainly appreciate this post (and the pictures of that great institution and the views of the Tennessee River and the mountains). Well done!

  9. 9
    Stephanie says:

    Oh my gosh, THAT JACKET. I am seriously covetous. And I really wish Birmingham wasn’t so far away, because I think I could get my husband to actually buy some new clothes at those prices. He has lost 40 pounds, all his clothes are falling off, and he won’t buy any new ones because he thinks clothes are a waste of money. (That right there is proof that opposites attract.)

  10. 10
    Ashley H says:

    My family took a weekend getaway there a few years ago! I’m about 45 mins south of Birmingham and it was a great drive! We went to UB on the first day. The second day, we went to Cathedral Caverns, not very far from there. One of the best caves I have ever been in. Just wanted to share with those wanting something else to do on a quick getaway!

    http://www.alapark.com/cathedralcaverns/

  11. 11

    I have always wanted to go there! Awesome post :)

  12. 12
    Rachel says:

    OH MY WORD! COOLEST STORE EVER!!!!! I have never even heard of that, nor given any thought to where unclaimed baggage might go. I have to, have to, have to go to that store when we come down again!!! Two hours away from you. Hmm. If we planned our last trip around T’s need to see the Braves we can plan the next one around my NEED to go to this store! Of course I will have to bring my parents to babysit so I can spend ALL DAY in that magical place! Seriously that has to be the coolest store ever!

  13. 13
    DJ says:

    So neat that you visited Unclaimed Baggage. I went there ten years ago and looking at your photos, they have definitely made improvements to the building. And that jacket! I’m so jealous. Thanks for sharing your trip!

  14. 14

    That jacket was made for you. At first I thought the name of their cafe was “Cops.” And ALL THE iPADS. THE SADNESS. :-(

  15. 15
    Laura W. says:

    Awesome finds! My parents have been before & I’ve really been wanting to go! Maybe I can convince Andrew one Saturday….

  16. 16
    Katie says:

    Why did I never know about this when I lived in B’ham?? I have to go!!! Now, I need an excuse and airfare. Hmmmmm.

  17. 17
    Giann says:

    Can I go with you next time?!

    And oh my word, YES. I would love to unpack the luggage! I mean, it would be like Christmas or my Birthday!!

  18. 18
    Elizabeth Kohtz says:

    I just learned about this store earlier this summer. I have a friend that had 5 brand new Ralph Lauren suits and left them in the overhead bin on a flight to New York City. Sin e they were carry on baggage he didn’t receive any compensation for them and then had to go 5 more brand new suits in New York City before his meetings began! Someone will get some very nice suits! Yet another reason I need to visit Alabama:)

  19. 19
    Sarah says:

    Oh! I’m a native Alabamian, too- and I’d totally forgotten about this place. I’ve always wanted to check it out, so I need to add this to my growing to do list!

  20. 20
    Sue at Blu says:

    Wow! Great post. Thanks for the info. Alabama is just full of hidden treasures!

  21. 21
    Amanda Sheren says:

    Wish I lived even remotely within driving distance to that place, it would be a fabulous place to go spend a little money. I wonder how much they sell the iPads for? Too bad they don’t have an online site for their store, that would be AMAZING. If I ever get to go to that area I will totally stop there, and the caverns sound awesome as well. I personally love going to caverns but have only gotten to go to the Carlsbad Caverns (multiple times so I guess I’m lucky) and the ones in/near San Antonio. I too, love stalking so the opening of baggage sounds really neat, except for all of the dirty laundry!

  22. 22
    Paige Brown says:

    I actually worked at UBC for a few years. It certainly is a fascinating place where every day brings something new. I am glad you enjoyed your visit.

  23. 23
    Que Sera says:

    Super cool! I think you should check out Sophie Calle’s work. I think your nosy side will love her work. One example: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/calle-the-hotel-room-47-p78300

    • 23.1

      Wow!! I do kinda love that, although I’m a bit creeped out that the maids at the hotel I was at last weekend photographed all my stuff!! But being the nosy person I am, I can’t complain if people creep on me.

  24. 24
    Rachel says:

    That place looks AMAZEBALLS! I am totally jealous of your visit and now I want to drive out :)

  25. 25
    Rachel says:

    Dying… because I just read your post about AMAZEBALLS needing to be banned from Twitter. And here I just used that stinkin’ word. And I started two sentences in this comment with the word “And”. FAIL.

  26. 26
    Jodi says:

    We went there twice with our kids last year and found some stuff, but obviously browsing is a little impaired with small children in tow. We got to go on a very quick trip last night and shopped today and it was way nicer without the kiddos. Very busy, but quiet for us to shop. I won a coupon when they did the bag unpacking demonstration, and we got to stop at Weathington Park on our way home! So pretty! Thanks for including it in your post! :) Oh, and I found a super soft leather jacket somewhat similar to yours, except it doesn’t have all of the super cute pockets. Anyway, thanks again! :)

  27. 27
    Annie D says:

    TOTALLY going there. Thanks!

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