For a richer life

Lost luggage: how to make money buying baggage in 4 easy steps

Lost luggage: how to make money buying baggage in 4 easy steps Heather Powazek Champ/Flickr

Hundreds of thousands of suitcases get lost every year around the world but they don’t just disappear into a black hole – in fact, they open up an opportunity for you to make money. Even the ones that never find their owners again end up somewhere. In fact, that somewhere is usually some form of auction house that sells them to people like you and me. In America, the Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Alabama receives 800,000 visitors per year and is, incredibly, the state’s biggest tourist attraction.

If you can’t get to Alabama then no fear; the British version of lost luggage auctions is also the place to bag a good bargain and even sell it on at a profit.

  1. The auction house
  2. Evaluate
  3. Valuable items or cases?
  4. Bag a bargain and sell it on

When British Airways has a surplus of unclaimed baggage in storage, it sells the cases at auction. All you need to do is head down to the auction house and bid on what you think you can sell on for a profit via eBay.

Not a difficult task when you can get items worth more than £500 for £50. Sell them on for at least £200 and make a profit of three times what you originally spent. Or you can be greedy and see if they’ll sell for £450 or more!

The thing is, there are plenty of bargains up for grabs, and it can be fun – many people describe it as being like a treasure hunt. But buying the suitcases is hit and miss – you just don’t know what you’ll end up with.

Step 1: The auction house

London’s lost luggage hotspot is Greasbys in Tooting, south west London. It’s here that British Airways (one of the world’s biggest baggage losers) sells its lost luggage.

Auctions take place every Tuesday at 10.30am. Viewing is held on the Monday between 2.30pm and 6.30pm, giving you a chance to auctiongavelsuss out which bags you want to buy (although you only get to see the outside of it so you can only guess at the contents).

There’s no national directory of airport auctioneers, but if there were, Wellers Auctioneers would certainly appear, taking the lost and lonely bags from Gatwick. Bristol Commercial Valuers & Auctioneers (BCVA) would also feature, as would Hertfordshire Auctions, who contend with Luton’s unwanted baggage.

As most of the above auction houses don’t have allotted airport auctions, it’s probably best to check with their website as to the next scheduled date for baggage bounty. Or you could sign up to their mailing list, which will let you know when they’re going to happen.

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Step 2: Evaluate

After viewing the auction collection, go home and think about the prices of likely individual items to see how much of a profit you can make up to a certain bid. It’s hard to tell when cases are sold closed, but the posher the case, the more likely it is to contain beautiful booty.

A good way to get an idea of how much cases will sell for is to search for similar items that are already listed on eBay. You can also check out the recommended retail price of the cases by looking on the net. Once you know how much the case itself is worth, you can set your bidding limit. The only gamble is on how much over the worth of the case you’re willing to bid. If the case contains lots of goodies then it could be worth exceeding your limit. But it could be full of junk.

Step 3: Valuable items or cases?

Given that in 2006 BA auctioned off 730 lost laptops and 1,460 mobiles (and that number has risen drastically since Heathrow’s Terminal 5 fiasco), there are plenty of luxury goodies to be bought on the cheap. There will also be very desirable clothes (according to your tastes!).

There are two paths you can take at the auction. The auctioneers take very valuable items out of the suitcases first and sell them separately. This includes stuff like electronic items, shoes, jewellery and toiletries. Of course you can bid on these and then sell them, ideally for more, elsewhere.

Alternatively, you can bid for suitcases and hope there are some good clothes, shoes, books etc. in them that you could flog. This is a bit of a lottery. Auctioneers only give the vaguest details about what is in each suitcase so you won’t know exactly what you are buying.

The auctioneers do tell you whether the clothes are clean or not though. It’s up to you, if you’re happy dealing with someone else’s nasty knickers. Of course you can also sell the suitcase and make some cash on that too.

Step 4: Bag a bargain and sell it on

Once you’ve successfully bid and paid for your bargains, take them home and begin your online selling to make money. Take some photos, write a good advertisement and then post it on eBay and wait for the bidding to begin.

How much can I make?

Lots. The valuable items sell very cheaply – a £500 snowboard recently sold for £75, for example. The suitcases sell from around £5 to £50. Even if the case is just full of clothes you should be able to sell it all for more than the price you paid for it.

Jasmine says...

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If you’ve made yourself a nice bit of cash and would like to invest it then look no further than these brilliant FREE financial guides from money experts Dianomi.

Quote 2

  • gabriel

    hy!!!know someone the place???thx!!

  • Lucky

    Are there eny auction houses round the Derbyshire area ?? I want to but some suitcases with contents in them can enyone help please??

  • Jamie Parker

    these people complaining that its wrong i’ve bought bags at auction and made profits but in truth after ending my last job it was that or being a robber

  • The Shoestring Investor

    I had a little look at this and reckon it’s a viable way to make a bit of money in the spare time. It’s all about picking the right items and having the right strategy

  • Saddam

    Il buy all the begs lol Im greedy

  • Property in India | Real Estate in India | Indian Properties | India Project Reviews | PropertyReview.in

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  • John Bentley

    BA Lost one case for two months then paid me compensation and found my case too it was around the scottish airport attack so they were fair. They also flew family home buisiness class from London.

  • Lost luggage worker

    I have worked for a lost luggage company delivering luggage right across the uk and europe out of heathrow with a couple of hundred cases coming in a day . If luggage has no tags of address or numbers it will go to auction with the money being split between airline/baggage comapny but this includes all lost luggage including mobile phones laptops wheelchairs ect . Everything is kept hold of for 6 months and can be claimed after that time if not claimed it all goes to auction . It’s up to the customer to chase there lost luggage every airline has one so does every airport . There is a law and systen the companys have to abide by after6 months they can do as they please with goods. i hope this helps some what .

  • Myesha Dargan

    Please don’t use any supplements or pills in order to lose weight!!!!Even it said that it’s safe or something like that..Your body can’t digest it completely!

  • Eva

    My god people are thick as fu**. These people are not to blame they are making money from luggage that years ago would have been put in the incinerator. Luggage that had NO identity on them. The people you need to blame apart for the airlines are yourself, If you had just sharpie markered your telephone number on the suitcase, it would not be at the auctions in first place.

    • Nick

      sounds more like they just dont check, and sell other people’s property for a profit. and it sounds like you’re a soulless asshole who would buy said property.

      • Mavin

        Nick, you are failing to understand what has been said. The fact is people leave their items at airports and it is better for them to be sold for cheap by the airport that just incinerated and wasted. Let’s think about being resourceful here.

        Yes someone is making a profit from this, potentially adding incentive for the airport to confiscate and find more items to sell but this is most likely minimal and is also the case with every institution that exists in a monetary system that intends to make profit. It is not soulless to buy these items, it is simply logical for the buyer and is in fact much more resourceful considering business and profit is built upon selling as much product (using as many resources) as possible and so buying new items from shops would only add demand from the shop and so the supplier and so from the factory and so from our mother earth.

  • molly

    I LOST ALL MY IRREPLACEABLE ITEM LAST YEAR… YOU WILL HAVE BAD KARMA RUNNING THROUGH YOUR GREEDY VEINS!

  • India

    U don’t care about anyone in the world do u

  • India

    I have lost my favourite teddy bear shame on u u just do not care about anyone else in the world

  • louis aaron

    ba do not make any effort to look after peoples bags, their too busy making money,and as for the profits going to charity,if you belive that ,your not in the same world as the real world,if your a large company you profit tax wise if you ,you give cash to so called charity,their was a program on the bbc which purchased bags at auction ,guess what ,they opened them and without much trying identifed the owners,in most cases,and went on to reunite them.

  • Linx

    Well…. BA have to pay compensation to people who loose baggage so why they would not put an effort in contacting anybody does not make much sense. Also, after they have paid a parties compensation claim, some of that money is recouped via selling off the goods at auction. Its costs a lot to store loads of unclaimed baggage…. Just Sayin’

  • stephxdancer

    In all fairness, the people do have like 6 months to claim the lost luggage, if there was anything in there that they desperately desired, im sure they would pretty much go out of their way for 6 months to find it (of course i know it isn’t always that simple). I don’t think it’s fair for people to call bidders “horrible people”, that’s a little harsh, and also they’re just trying to make a bit of money, it’s not their fault that the service is available. I’m just about to become a student so i might consider this to earn a little cash!

    • Nick

      seriously? its not their fault the service is available? wow thats the most idiotic thing I’ve heard all day. services only stay in existance so long as there is a DEMAND for them, like from these people. make the airlines open the bags and locate the owners, rather than selling the stuff they STOLE for a profit. seriously, you shouldn’t take stupid pills, the “well if the service is available its not the users fault they used it.” excuse sounds pretty flimsy. I know, the nazis wasn’t responsible for the holocaust since the tools has already available! I know the holocaust is ALOT worse, but still people! THIS SHIT IS WRONG.

      • dingdong

        man, some people lose their luggage but you lost your marbles!

  • Molly

    I read the comments from those that say BA and the auction vultures are BAD, honestly, do you want BA to buy and keep a large warehouse just to store unknown owners of suitcases that have gone missing AND charge us more money on our flight tickets, its the owners fault for not putting luggage tags on bags, as well as inside the bags. Tuff shit & get real

    • katherine

      you have very obviously never lost a bag whilst travelling! BA have just lost my bag although they know it is in Heathrow ,they just dont know where. My bag has labels and several distinguishing identifiable items inside with my name on. Quite frankly you are showing an ignorant and hard faced attitude with your “tuff shit and get real” nonsense. I sincerely hope you find yourself in my frustrating situation in the very near future as i’m sure your opinion will become somewhat different!

      • George

        Well said.

        Before reading this, I didn’t know that BA auctions off lost baggage instead of trying their best to find the owner, what a bunch of muppets.

        No wonder their base airport (LHR) is equally diabolical.

      • Lee Matthews

        What does it look like ,and are there any goodies in it, just wondering,as i’m off down the auctions!!!

  • Kelly

    this is a disgusting thing to do. my family just lost their luggage due to the weather disruptions despite them being fully tagged multiple times and that fact that you are encouraging people to take other peoples things and auction them off on ebay for personal gain is the lowest thing i can imagine. people who do this are nothing more than scavenging cockroaches who deserve the worst coming to them. my mothers suitcase contained precious gifts and keepsakes and christmas presents that are irreplacable and the idea of some grubby vulture selling them to make a few extra quid sickens me.
    anyone who does this is a vile and horrible excuse for a human being.

    • George

      BA is a vile and horrible excuse of a nighmarish company.

      When I was a student flying out of UK at christmas I had an extra suitcase with presents etc and I was 10 kgr overweight in total. BA asked me for about 160 quid for excess backage and since I didn’t have that money, I asked them in frustration what would happen to my stuff. Plainly, the BA clerk said pay up or you should leave your baggage to be destroyed. Now I know that by destroyed, BA actually meant to be auctioned off…

      Luckily I shared baggage with a fellow passenger.

      • joseph

        Had you never flown before
        Surly you realise how strict the airlines are on overweight bags. I could understand 1 or 2 kilo’s but 10!

    • lucy

      You seriously think anyone wanting to purchase a bag with no identification or tracking number is a “vile and horrible excuse for a human being”?! People do a lot worse than that, what an easy life you must live to think that, ever watched the news or read a paper?

      I had my BOTH my bags lost thanks BA containing jewellery, photos and presents for more 2 children, I blame the company not individual people who simply want to make some cash in these hard times.

      However it isn’t just BA, they are police auctions for stolen goods that have no identification, auctions of those who have gone bankrupt, oh and if the council cannot find relatives or friends to pick up the belongings of a deceased person they will either throw the belongings or sell them.

  • sam worthington

    lots of luggage’s and jewelry are put in to auction every where. someone please tell me what are the ways to find such auction? i am very interested in attending such auctions.

  • jadeyboo

    i would reallyyy like to go to a luggage auction but i dont no how to do it? I live in the wolverhampton area?

  • Bam

    I think maybe what should happen is that people should put their address labels inside the bag as well as the outside. So that if the bags DO wind up at auction, they may have a little more chance or getting back to the rightful owner…

    …Smart thinking eh?

    • http://www.jasminebirtles.com Jasmine Birtles

      Certainly! Thanks for the reminder – I’m definitely going to do that.

      • http://WWW.BAGGAGEPIN.COM Jonathan

        Baggage PIN has developed a solution that will solve the lost baggage issue.

        I suggest that people who are concerned about their baggage getting lost join BaggagePIN. It would also save insurance providrs millions.

  • Charlie Brown BA staff

    This is ludacrous to think that BA staff take lost luggage, we try to locate the bag to the passenger and as soon as a report of lost luggage is made Ba traces the bag tag but if there is no bag tag then it is like, finding a needle in a haystack with how many bags have no id tags and thats why its always recommended that passengers put their name and addresses inside and outside the bag so that it can be identified.
    As for BA making money from the lost bags, it goes to charity.

  • http://www.bigdreamssnowboarding.com snowbording uk

    I was actually looking around for a forum post on this issue, but stumbled across your site on Google!! I’m actually quite interested so will keep an eye out for updates :)

  • Kevin

    In response to the rediculous comments about BA.

    BA firstly make every effort to return a lost bag. One of my friends had his bags misplaced quite a few months ago. He was kept informed and it turned up deliverd in a taxi the next day.

    The only way a bag would end up in an auction is because it can’t be linked to an individual (tags lost etc), they simply don’t set out to try and steal your bag and make money on it. Crazy Talk!

    The only reason BA has been highlighted as losing the most number of bags compared to other airlines is because it is the UK’s largest. It’s as simple as that.

    BA staff do not get an option to buy any lost bags.

  • ALM

    I think this is a terrible way of getting rid of the lost suitcases. It encourages people to make profit of what I would called lost or stolen property. Surely, airlines could be more demanding and if all passenger had their details on them, they could easily be returned to the owners. It is so distressing for people who loose them and so unfair. And how very ridiculous for airlines to ask passengers to keep receipts of all the items they posses. That, does not happen in real life. How can they expect people to keep all proof of purchase (incuding nickers!) and what about presents. If they make it so difficult for people to claim what they have right to claim for, they should also take more responsibility for the suitcases. How can they get lost in the first place, is hard to understand. They should revise their procuedures and be stricter.

    • http://www.jasminebirtles.com Jasmine Birtles

      Yes, I know what you mean. Each time I fly I wonder if my luggage will be there at the end. In this computerised age you would think that they could keep track of luggage anywhere in the world. I don’t see why they lose so many! However, as they do, buying them and then selling the stuff seems like fun!

  • juliet richards

    I am appalled at this idea! It just incourages them to not bother looking for the owners! Surely people have their name on them now? Seeing as they make money out of it they’re not likely to bother even more and will just make a profit out of it. It makes you wonder if they do it on purpose??! Please don’t join them, yours might be on there one day! Karma…

  • http://world-airport-info.blogspot.com/2009/09/6-million-bags-lost-in-european.html Lost my luggage too

    It’s interesting to note that 6 million suitcases and items of baggage are lost or delayed at European airports every year!

    With the airlines profiting from lost luggage, it does raise some questions surrounding the appropriateness of that practise.

  • John

    Greasbys was a waste of time, I bid on 27 suitcases at £20 a pop but didn’t win a single one. And the ones I’ve bought in the past have been full of rubbish anyway! I give up.

  • lesley

    yes i think that this is a weak easy solution of disposing the bags…………and of course what about the excessive insurance claims that this method incurrs

  • Michael Nicholas

    There should be a way these can be returned to the owners!! Maybe it should be compulsory that all suitcases should have a name and telephone number on the inside of the case?? That way all cases everywhere could be opened and seen who owns it!!

  • Julie Jillians

    My Husband lost his baggage leaving him without any clean clothes and toiletries, we tried eveything to get it back, the hole thing left us wipped out not to mention furiouse. Not only was he out of pocket he spend god knows how much in phone calls, I found the hole thing disgusting, the point of check in is what???? the point of putting a lable on your bag is what??? just for members of staff to take out the pricey goods and then sell your bag and clothes, the stuff thats left after the voltures have cleaned you out.. What a lovely airline

    • Pedant123

      Lol, learn to spell if you want to be taken seriously!

      I barely interpreted your rambling, grammarless diatribe!

      • sophie5550123

        She’s probably dyslexic or was typing in a rush, it’s still understandable to read and it’s obvious that she’s putting across her opinion! So if you can’t understand it, then I think it’s you with a grammar or reading problem to be honest… Can’t you all just be civil?

  • steve the pilot (not BA)

    It seems to me that BA should do much more to return the bag to the owner, if all bags went to a central point and then all owners were directed to contact the central point website, in this magical age of computers, photo pictures and a list of info on (SOME NOT ALL) contents inside could be published on line and owners could see, then identify their ‘lost suitcase’ and ask for it back when identifying the remaining contents.

    But maybe its just another way of legalised stealing!

  • C. Black

    I cant help wondering if BA staff get first pickings, I bet you dont get many L. Vuitton/Chanel luggage going up to auction !!!

  • loisxmariex

    this is so tempting!..all depends if you want to gamble i suppose! worth thinking about though :) thanks for sharing!!