Final Destination for Your Lost Luggage: Scottsboro, Alabama

Unclaimed Luggage Bought and Sold
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Brenda Cantell got an excellent bargain on a pair of shoes, a dress -- even a wedding band -- in one of the most unlikely places. No, it's not a flea market. It's the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

Located in the small town of Scottsboro, Ala., this final destination for thousands of pieces of luggage becomes a clearance sale extravaganza in a matter of weeks.

The owners of the center have an exclusive contract with the airlines that if a bag is left unclaimed for 90 days, it's legal to sell whatever is left inside at a discounted price -- reading glasses, bottles of cologne, books and some other very popular travel items.

"We have thousands and thousands of neck pillows," said Cantell, a spokeswoman for the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

And then there are some more expensive items up for sale: previously worn lingerie, swimwear, ties, and oh yes, Cantell's wedding band -- all from someone's forgotten suitcase.

"It was a man's wedding ring with his named inscribed on it," she said. "Got it for a few hundred dollars. Took it to the local jewelry store, had it resized and his name buffed out, and it found a new home with me."

And it's not just men, but women too, who like to check their valuables. "A 5.8-carat diamond ring and we sold it for $26,000 dollars," Cantell said.

While clothes are one of the big sellers -- including old underwear -- Cantell assured that everything was cleaned before it was sold.

"We actually have one of the largest dry cleaning facilities in the state," she said. "We launder about 40,000 pieces a month -- more than more professional cleaners do in a year."

Laptops, Kindles and iPods also made it onto the selling room floor, with their memories wiped clean so buyers don't end up with someone else's vacation photos.

"Sue and Bob's wedding will not be on the camera you get," Cantell said.

Aside from high gas prices jacking up the cost of tickets, the airlines have come under fire recently for slapping passengers with hidden baggage charges and fees.

The Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) announced today that U.S. airlines collected almost $5.7 billion from baggage fees and reservation charge fees in 2010. However, the airlines lost more than 2 million of the roughly 700 million suitcases checked last year, according to The Associated Press.

Delta Airlines faced public scrutiny last week after 34 soldiers returning from Afghanistan revealed they had to pay over $2,800 in total baggage fees to fly from Atlanta back to their base in Louisiana.

While their military orders made clear they were authorized to carry four bags, Delta's policy at the time of their complaint was to allow service members to check three bags, and unless they were flying first or business class, they were charged $200 for each additional bag. Delta changed its luggage policy for servicemen and women in response to the incident.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center has been in business for more than 40 years. It was started by Doyle Owens, a local insurance salesman, who first brought luggage left behind on busses. He and his wife then cleaned the clothes and sold them out of their home. Now the center is a Walmart-sized store that's one of Alabama's biggest tourist attractions.

"We have people every year from all 50 states, probably 40 to 50 foreign countries," Cantell said.

And with deals this good, Jennifer Kirk said she outfitted her 7-month-old with some stylish kicks at a bargain.

"His shoes, these are Jordan shoes," she said. "They are really expensive, like $50 shoes. I got them here for, I think, $12."

ABC News' Lauren Effron contributed to this report.

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