Ever watched Storage Hunters, the US TV show where people bid for the mystery contents of storage units? Now you can do the same kind of thing yourself with unclaimed suitcases, via lost luggage auctions.
When airlines are unable to reunite lost bags with their rightful owners, they often sell them off through specialist auction houses. Bags are considered lost after 21 days (see what to do if you've lost your luggage below).
After this, while galling to imagine if it's yours, suitcases can be auctioned off and usually cost £10-£75. You don’t always know what's inside the cases, but pick a winner and profits are possible from selling them on.
How do I bid? To bid, you need to go to an auction house on the day. The biggies include Greasbys in Tooting, south London, BCVA in Bristol and Mulberry Bank in Glasgow. Another is Wellers in Milton Keynes, but this is closed until November 2016.
Some other auctioneers may sell lost luggage on occasion – you'll need to call up local ones to ask. If you find more which do this, let us know in the Lost Luggage Auctions thread.
Is it all (literally) pants? It may well be, but you could get lucky with designer togs. While some auction houses let you see what’s inside cases before you buy, most don’t.
You’re unlikely to get a bag stuffed with diamonds, as auction houses remove valuables such as iPods, jewellery and perfume to sell as separate lots. Airlines unlock cases first - they need to check for passengers' ID and ensure what they're selling's legal. The contents and case itself can still be floggable though.
While sale prices vary, expect to pay about £10-£75 per case. Homeward-bound cases can be whiffy, so clothes will need a good wash.
If you try it, please feed back in the Airport auctions forum thread.
“It's pot luck. Could be full of gadgets and designer gear or someone’s soiled smalls!”seftonsun
How can I best bag a bargain? Most auction houses give a brief description of contents such as "gent’s clothes". Go to the advance viewing, usually a day before bidding starts.
Note suitcases' make and models, then benchmark the case’s value on eBay – brands to watch out for include Samsonite, Tumi, Trunki and Linea.
Don’t get blinded by bidding fever – set a maximum and don’t be pushed past it. You’ll need to show photo ID and sometimes pay a refundable deposit to bid.
Remember, if you get something you don't want, you can always flog it online – see our Ebay Selling Tips and Facebook Selling Tips for help.
Always factor in fees. Our typical price above includes the fees you'll usually pay. But it's important to understand that your final cost will be more than the amount the item closes for when you bid.
There are two fees that may be applied.
- The buyer’s premium. This is typically 15-20% of the item’s price - you also pay VAT on this premium. So if you successfully bid £30 for a case, and the buyer's premium was 20% (plus VAT) – the total payable would be £37.20.
- VAT on the hammer price: A few auction houses also add 20% VAT to items' hammer prices. This would push your price to £43.20.
I've got the bug. Any other second-hand buying tricks? When it comes to eBay, many just bid. To home in on the uber- deals, try our 40+ Ebay Buying Secrets guide.
If you fancy buying some stolen goods on the cheap, check out our Police Auctions guide, which explains how to do it (and it's all entirely legal).
Help! The airline lost MY luggage - what should I do? Before you leave the baggage reclaim, go to the luggage or airline counter and fill in a Property Irregularity report, keeping a copy for yourself. You can claim without one, but it will be easier with it.
You then need to put in a claim with the airline within seven days - check with your airline for how to claim. If they don’t find it within 21 days, it’s officially lost.
How much compensation could I get if the airline loses my luggage? There are no rules that set the amount - the maximum will be about £1,000, though it's very rare to get this much. You are likely to get more by going via your travel insurer, so check your policy. See the Travel Insurance guide.