Did you know you can make cash from lost luggage? 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.
Step 1: The auction house
When British Airways has a surplus of unclaimed baggage in storage, it sells the cases at auction (of course, BA – and we hope all airlines – do their absolute best to reunite baggage that has gone astray with its owner before attempting to sell it off.)
All those looking to bag a bargain on the lucky dip of lost luggage need to do is head down to the auction house, and bid on cases that go under the hammer.
If you’re lucky, you could pick up items worth hundreds or thousands of pounds, for very little – most suitcases sell for between £10 and £75. The savvy amongst you could sell items on for more than you paid, making a tidy profit.
Sometimes, auction houses will have opened up the suitcases and separated the goods. Other times, there may be a generic description of what’s inside – “men’s clothes”, for example.
There are plenty of bargains up for grabs, and it can be fun – many people describe it as being like a treasure hunt.
Where to look
London’s lost luggage hotspot is Greasby’s in Tooting, south west London. It’s here that British Airways (one of the world’s biggest baggage losers) sells its lost luggage. Greasby’s also deals with the lost luggage from Heathrow Airport.
Auctions take place every Tuesday, with views the Monday before. The most recent Monday viewing took place between 11am and 4.45pm. The viewings give you a chance to suss out which bags you want to buy.
Other notable auction houses that deal in lost luggage include:
- BCVA Commercial Auctions (Bristol)
- Mulberry Bank Auctions (Glasgow-based, but all auctions take place online)
- Wellers of Guildford (Surrey)
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. You should sign up to their mailing lists, which will let you know when they’re going to happen, or follow individual houses on social media.
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 if cases are sold closed, but the posher the case, the more likely it is to contain items of value.
A good way to get an idea of how much the cases themselves 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 online.
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. Of course, it could be full of junk.
If you’ve found an auction house that lets you see into the cases before you bid on them, you’ve got a better chance of grabbing a bargain.The same goes if the auction house gives you a description of what’s inside the case, even if it’s brief.
Step 3: Valuable items or cases?
There are two paths you can take at the auction. The auctioneers are likely to take very valuable items out of the suitcases first and sell them separately. This might include electronics, shoes and jewellery. 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 whether or not you’re happy dealing with someone else’s nasty knickers. Of course you can also sell the suitcase itself and make some cash on that too.
Step 4: Bag a bargain and sell it on
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 some good ad copy, and then post it on eBay and wait for the bidding to begin.
How much can I make?
Lots. Valuable items can sell very cheaply at auction. A £500 snowboard recently sold for £75, for example. Suitcases might sell between £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.
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… Read more »
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!
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…
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.
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.
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
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!!
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..… Read more »
Lol, learn to spell if you want to be taken seriously!
I barely interpreted your rambling, grammarless diatribe!
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?
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!
I cant help wondering if BA staff get first pickings, I bet you dont get many L. Vuitton/Chanel luggage going up to auction !!!
this is so tempting!..all depends if you want to gamble i suppose! worth thinking about though 🙂 thanks for sharing!!