Across the U.S., there are thousands of pieces of airline baggage that go unclaimed each year. Tap or click here for the one thing you should never put in checked luggage. Whether it was mishandled by the airline or a passenger forgot to pick it up, they can be found in almost every major city.
As a rule, unclaimed baggage must be kept at the airport for at least 90 days. This is to give the person who lost it a chance to claim it. But what happens when the 90 days expire? Well, some of the bags get destroyed. On other occasions, they go up for sale at unclaimed baggage auctions.
That might seem a bit bizarre, but it is an industry practice. It also spans other movable goods like packages and deliveries. If you are lucky enough, you could find something valuable or noteworthy, but you also need to be aware of associated scams. Read on for all the details.
Here’s the backstory
When it comes to unclaimed baggage from airlines, you won’t get much bigger than the aptly named Unclaimed Baggage site based in Scottsboro, Alabama. It started over 50 years ago and has an agreement with several airlines to purchase lost luggage. It’s then sold to the public from a massive warehouse.
This is slightly different from luggage auctions, as the company opens the bags, checks the contents, and cleans them. It is then priced and available for purchase either online or in the store.
Some of the more exciting things that have been found in lost luggage included a Nikon F camera from the Space Shuttle, an Egyptian burial mask, and shrunken heads from the Amazon rainforest.
Speaking of Amazon, lost item sales aren’t limited to airlines. You can also buy packages that never made it to their destination from USPS and Amazon. In a similar manner to airlines, the deliveries are put up for auction.
How to buy unclaimed packages
There are a few websites where you can bid for unclaimed packages, but you also need to know about the risks involved. One such website is GovDeals, which USPS contracts to auction undelivered goods.
Fortunately, you aren’t bidding on a mysterious box with unknown content. Instead, you’re bidding on individual items listed across many categories. You bid on the item you would like and hope you win the auction.
If you are in the market for a box of more than 40 random mobile phones from different makers, the current highest bid is $310.
For a bargain (if you hurry), there is an auction cart with “Assorted Electrical Items” with a single bid of $1. The description states that it includes Dell and HP monitors, an RCA boom box with MP3 player, Nikon Cool Pix S2 and Canon Power Shot camera, and keyboards.
Another website that you can look at is Liquidation.com, which is affiliated with GovDeals. The great thing about this website is that you can filter by brand or retailer. This includes packages and undelivered goods from Amazon, Target, Walmart and Home Depot.
The item’s locations are listed in auction details, along with a brief description, the auction closing times and the estimated retail value.
For example, there is a pallet in the Las Vegas warehouse containing 35 “assorted appliances” from Amazon. The current highest bid is $100 for the 400-pound lot. From the image, you can see several Keurig boxes as well as Black & Decker appliances.
Read the fine print and beware of scams
It is easy to get excited about scoring a bargain on auction sites, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. In most cases, the products that you are bidding on won’t be in pristine condition.
Generally, items on auction are returns (for whatever reason) or have been sitting in a warehouse for such a long time that they will need a deep clean. Liquidation.com states that “items are not inspected and may or may not be functional for the Amazon packages.”
This brings us to the safety aspect. With most of these websites, the products are provided through third parties. And as they state, the lots and pallets aren’t checked or inspected.
While there would be no practical way to verify content, checking photos would be a good idea. On some of the items, a manifest can be downloaded and viewed. This includes a detailed description of everything on the pallet, the amounts and model numbers.
Also, be aware of fake auction sites that list products for sale but only want to steal your money. Do some research on which sites are the best to use (like the ones we mentioned) and check social media posts for complaints.