Episode 102- Matt Owens from the Unclaimed Baggage Center

Imagine yourself in a time when people are able and unafraid to go on vacation, even in the contiguous United States. Where would you fly to? Casablanca, North Carolina? Moscow, Idaho? Holland, Michigan? Now, what would you pack? How many sailor suits and doggy captain outfits would be enough? (Trick question­ — you can never have enough sailor outfits. Just ask Sarah Ferguson and the Village People.)

For now, you might be content with letting us guide you on a virtual journey through the magic of our podcast. But we’d be the first to say that doesn’t beat a trip to Death Valley. Someday soon we all may be able to travel by plane or train again, and you’ll have to address this packing dilemma head-on. While you pack, keep in mind not only what you’d like to bring, but also what you’d like to leave behind for someone else to buy.

This week, we spoke with Matt Owens, the grandson of the original founder of the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. As you can imagine, we had a million questions for him, and he was gracious enough to give us the true story of what happens to your domestic airline luggage (along with luggage lost with other travel and transportation companies) once it disappears from your life.

The very first transaction was with Trailways in 1970 to purchase their unclaimed bags. Matt’s grandfather drove up to D.C. from Alabama, brought back the luggage, sold the contents in a Saturday sale out of a rented house, and the rest is history. Unclaimed Baggage now has relationships with airlines, along with bus and other travel companies, to purchase their unclaimed luggage. Matt emphasized that the airlines spends about three months trying to reunite people with their luggage. If they are unable to connect, the passengers are reimbursed for their lost items. So no, hard-working airline employees are not going through your bags and traipsing about in your antique diamond tiara from Cartier as your Uber speeds off from the airport. And why in the world did you pack that tiara anyway? The insurance alone makes it too much of a headache…

Where were we? Right, unclaimed luggage. Fair warning: When you visit The Unclaimed Baggage Center website, you will become just as distracted as we are. Unclaimed Baggage is a giant treasure hunt and just about anything you can think of is on offer (both in the retail center and online). Tune in to the episode to find out how the unclaimed items are sorted, cleaned, appraised, authenticated, and often donated to the charity, Reclaimed for Good. Matt also clued us in to some seriously bizarre items they’ve come across through the years. Let’s just say not everyone is traveling with a souvenir sweatshirt, an extra pair of walking shoes, and some Pepto. In fact, so many extraordinary things have surfaced over the years, that they’ve opened an actual museum at their retail site.

The world of unclaimed luggage and where it goes is one we knew nothing about, and now we can’t get enough of it. Once you hear what Matt has to say, you won’t be able to get enough, either. So to dig deep after the episode, visit Unclaimed Baggage’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. You’ll discover everyday items you might need, like noise-cancelling headphones (so you can hear our podcast even better). But you’ll also find fantastical things you never knew you needed, like a pure silver flute. How else are you going to perfect the introductory bars to Men at Work’s Down Under?

Okay, we have some serious shopping to do. Luke sent away for a mystical carving and may currently be in the middle of a haunting. (Stay tuned for his new Netflix series, The Willies in Philly.) Heidi has her eye on the Equestrian Signet Ring with Cubic Zirconia. It’s time to represent for the horse people. Though maybe, instead, she’ll finally be able to find the perfect outfit for Captain. And stop with the dog fat shaming. He could wear all sorts of things that fit — he’s just waiting for the perfect sailing gear. For now, he will remain unclothed so his cute belly is in full view, snoringly loud and proud!

P.S. Wouldn’t “Unclaimed Baggage” make a great title for an autobiography? We are currently fighting over who gets it.

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