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26.09.2013
As if you needed another incentive not to lose your luggage, Australia's Sydney Airport is auctioning off lost luggage travelers have left behind. It's kind of like America's Unclaimed Baggage Center, where lost items are sold -- but the Australian auction is happening online, giving an eBay-ish feel to the event. Regional carrier American Eagle has ranked at the very bottom of the DOT’s list in five out of the past six years. The risk is in not knowing exactly what you’re buying, and not knowing how much that might sell for.
There are only so many auctions each week, and it takes a fair bit of upfront capital and time. Enter your email address to subscribe to my blog and receive notifications of more great new content by email.
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The airport is home to an enormous graveyard of discarded duffel bags and carry-ons that have been cast aside. Last year, across the United States, nearly 2 million suitcases were reported to be either lost, damaged or delayed. To avoid losing your luggage, Henderson said it is as simple as keeping your bag with you at all times. Miami International hosts a lost luggage auction twice a year to a standing room-only crowd who pays a $3 admission fee to get in on the bidding action. Billy Leroy, who owns an eclectic props and antique store in New York City, was one of the bidders in Miami and is also one of the stars of the Travel Channel's new reality TV show, "Baggage Battles," which airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Dozens of these auctions happen at airports all over the country, with thousands of bags and millions of dollars at stake.
Only after bidders win the bags do they get to open them and find out if they have hit the jackpot a€“ one lucky bidder won a suitcase with 10,000 British pounds inside -- or just got stuck with junk.
Faced with a mountain of luggage, bidders are given about an hour to pick up the bags, handle them and get a feel for what they might be carrying. But Leroy said that formula can sometimes backfire because an expensive-looking bag could be a fake. Miami International has made as much as $100,000 in a single auction and it's not just off lost luggage bags. As for Billy Leroy, he spent $350 to buy an old truck, which was carrying some military items, and a bag that contained a pair of pants with rare coins in the pocket, a profit of $3,300 when he cashed out. But Leroy spent a total of $2,000 at Miami International, in part on a Cartier watch, knowing full well that all of his calculations and hunches could amount to one big bust.
With thousands of bags lost at Heathrow's Terminal 5, some people will never see their luggage again. In a small warehouse filled with furniture, electrical goods and clothing hanging from the ceiling in clear plastic bags, a battle of egos is under way.
About 40 people are assembled in the cramped room where everybody is seeking the perfect bargain. Virtually every object - from televisions to trainers, cupboards and even the seats people sit on - bears a small white sticker with its lot number. Greasby's, along with a number of other auction houses in the UK, sells luggage once airlines have given up attempts to return bags to their owners.


Gary Marshall, from Enfield, north London, is a regular at these auctions, which he has attended weekly for more than a decade. Last week he bought four cases - a modest haul compared with his average of between 15 and 20 each week. The 46-year-old former engineer says buying at these auctions, which started out as a source of extra money, has become his "livelihood" as he sells the cases and their contents online and at a market stall he runs.
Their contents provide snapshots of holiday hopes: short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are mixed in with denim miniskirts, bright beach towels, swimming trunks and several photographs of a young man in Hastings. At the auction house, regulars face increasing competition from a new breed of buyers who have heard about the potential bargains on offer.
As Gary explains his recipe for auction success, a woman nearby explains that she and her boyfriend are first-timers who have travelled from Telford on their day off "to see what we get". Recent problems with the baggage system at Heathrow's Terminal 5 (T5), which has caused a backlog of up to 28,000 items, has thrown the issue under the spotlight. The terminal's difficulties have been so pronounced that two senior executives at British Airways have said they will leave the company. The airline said about three months is spent using a "manual tracing process" to identify owners, which means none of the bags currently being sold at auction would be from T5. A BA spokesman, who explained that all proceeds from auctioned luggage goes to charity, said: "The vast majority of bags are reunited with their owners. All major airlines use the World Tracer system to assist in the recovery of lost baggage, says a BMI spokesman. After a three-month period of trying to reunite a lost item with its owner, the item may be auctioned with proceeds going to charity, he adds, but the majority of lost bags are returned to their owner within 24 hours. However, this doesn't mean that the chef from Battersea, south London, has no interest in the contents of his new acquisition. Regulars at Greasby's said the clothes inside the cases were usually mixed up a little to provide a balance of ages and gender in each case. The throng of bargain hunters at Greasby's appear to be keenly awaiting the influx of bags expected at the auction house in the coming months, courtesy of T5's teething problems. Two small holdalls, two cameras and six prints for ?32 make up the day's haul for Louise Moore, a customer service officer, but she plans to return in a few weeks to try and get T5 luggage. Miss Moore, 27, from Grove Park, south London, is quick to point out that there is nothing wrong with what she and her fellow entrepreneurs are doing, stressing that they "aren't doing anyone any harm". Article by Dom Joly this week mentioned he had bought 15 cases and found personal details in three so he was able to reunite them with their owners! Most of the time after a lengthy delay the owner ends up being gratefully reunited with their possessions. I have read that often people can make 2-3 times what they paid, but I’m a little sceptical as to whether this is the norm.
It’s all about picking up the right item at the right price, and outwitting everyone else who is trying to do the same. I plan to at least look at two online on Saturday and Tuesday (if not go to one in person), so I should be able to have a slightly better idea then. It really depends where abouts you are looking, but the main ones I know of are all mentioned in the article. It explains that if you do not provide us with information we have requested from you, we may not be able to provide you with the goods and services you require. There are also forgotten bikes, laptops, surf boards, cameras, cell phones, even paintings and crutches -- all of which have gone unclaimed or don't carry identification.
He also suggested not packing anything of significant value, or if you must, carry those items with you on the plane. Bidders can't open the unclaimed bags and have to rely on their instincts to place bets on what could be inside -- which could be anything from expensive jewelry or just laundry. They also auction off singular items in bulk, where bidders can take bets on bags of jewelry or electronics that have been left at TSA checkpoints, or entire cargo loads of discarded items. Patrick Leano, 28, bought a small shell suitcase because he and his girlfriend travel frequently and they wanted a strong, durable case. It's all legal money," she says, adding that she would sell the clothing inside the cases too. I believe that in France they would have to wait one year and one day before they can legally claim rights on the luggage and hence sell them.
How would these people like to see their possessions on Ebay, or a market stall, having no control over them.


If I lost my case it would make me feel better that the contents were helping some person in need rather than making a quick buck for someone. Seems to have a bad taste about it and symptomatic of society's values where people relish in picking over someone else's misfortune for personal greed.
Bidding on all the items will start at $1 (AUD, we assume), so you're sure to get a good deal on everything from surfboards to Scotch. So at least you know someone is putting your new iPhone 6 to good use, and a charity in Australia is grateful for your contribution. However, what you might not be aware of is that hundreds of thousands of items of luggage each year never get returned for one reason or another. In terms of time required, there is a little bit needed to get down to the auction house, then the auction process itself including viewing I imagine will take around 2-3 hours. I’m going to base my assumptions on a reasonable estimate of being able to sell at a 50% profit margin. However, it might well be a decent way to get a good return on the capital I have already built up and move the project on to a new level. The real test though is going to be actually getting stuck in and seeing if I can make some money out of it. I aim to show that it's possible to become freed from the 9-5 and achieve financial freedom. It also explains how you can access or seek correction of your personal information, how you can complain about a breach of the Australian Privacy Principles and how we will deal with a complaint of that nature. I agree it was pointless, and wonder if airlines make any attempt to reunite goods with owners. The show follows three teams of savvy auction specialists who travel the world to place bets in high-stakes luggage auctions. But at one point, he won a Swiss Army bag that didn't contain much of value, but he found the owner's car rental information inside. The money from the original sale goes to charity and that price is higher if people are buying the cases to resell the case and content. Everyone has different standards I suppose and some willing to ditch their morals for a few pennies. However, many offer online auctions, which will be a great way to get a feel for how it works without actually physically attending each one (read about my exciting experience with online bidding here).
On this basis, if I pick up a bag for ?20, I reckon I can sell it on for ?30 after all the costs of postage etc.
In limiting how many I buy the first time I am limiting the risk of how much I might lose, however it also means that I risk wasting my time, as I’m not taking advantage of economies of scale. It is also worth noting that I can always increase the quantities I buy at the auctions (to the limit of what I can fit in my car) and therefore increase the scale slightly.
Given what I have researched and know about it, it should be possible to make a half decent return without too much specialist knowledge, so for now I’m going to give it a go and reassess after my first try.
I would hate to think someone might be rummaging through my smalls or putting my vintage 1950s gear up for sale on eBay!!
When I travel, I put an A4 sheet with name and address and flight details in the inside so it should always be traceable if intact regardless of what is lost on the outside. The time spent selling it also needs to be considered, but sites like eBay and gumtree makes this process fairly quick and simple. Packing for hols at the mo, so I shall price everything up for them--Bless just in CASE it ends up at Greasbys saleroom! The auction house then inspects the contents and often remove any very valuable items, such as phones, laptops and jewellery to auction separately.
This makes it a bit of a lottery, but idea is to take an educated guess at the contents from the type and condition of the bag. It’s all a case of balancing up your judgement with the price an item is likely to fetch and relying on a little bit of luck.



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