(From Janet Shamlian, NBC News Correspondent)
It's not easy to get there, but it's worth the trip. If you've ever lost your luggage permanently, the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama could be its final resting place. Producer Jen Gentile and I checked it out for a story airing on TODAY this morning. WATCH VIDEO
I wasn't sure what to expect; would this be a warehouse of half-used tubes of toothpaste or a Mecca of new designer dresses? Truth be told, it's a mix -- with plenty of treasures at bargain prices for anyone willing to give a few hours to the hunt.
With rows of iPods and stacks of those pricey noise-canceling headphones, the store fills a city block. From outerwear to underwear, there are racks of clothes alongside merchandise you'd never expect to find in checked luggage... including swords and surfboards. How do you lose a surfboard? I was sad to see such an extensive collection of wedding dresses and hoped the brides had lost them AFTER the ceremony.
How does it all end up here? While most lost luggage is eventually returned to its owners, thousands of bags never make it home. After 90 days, many airlines sell the orphaned bags to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Workers painstakingly sort through them, discarding about a third of the items (so no toothpaste) and giving another third to charity. The rest is washed and prepped for the showroom floor, brought out at the rate of about 7,000 items each day.
How are the prices? Low enough to make the store among the biggest tourist attractions in Alabama. Let's just say Jen's bag and mine were both heavier on the way home!