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 unclaimed baggage 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.
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.
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 suss 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.
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.
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.
Once you’ve successfully bid and paid for unclaimed luggage 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.
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.