- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

ZURICH Tucked away in a warehouse near the airport is a shopper's paradise for any traveler who has ever wanted to take home airline cutlery, in-flight champagne or those comfy blankets reserved for first-class fliers.
These are just some of the myriad items everything from safety instruction cards that cost less than a dollar to expensive Longine watches that must sell in the next month as part of Swissair's liquidation. The earnings will be used to defray the defunct company's multibillion-dollar debt.
On one recent day, young couples picked through bottled spirits and polo shirts, while parents grabbed stuffed animals and boxes of colored pencils, all emblazoned with the now-extinct red and white logo. Some came for the nostalgia, others just sought a good deal.
"I grew up with this company. When I drew an airplane it would always be Swissair," said Marcel Burkard, 28, of Zug. "I came here for a souvenir."
Patricia Kramer, 39, of Zurich had just three things on her mind: forks, spoons and knives.
"This is something you can really use. It's really cheap," she said, handling the cutlery priced at about a dollar a piece. "I'm buying some for me and some for my sister."
Debt accumulation and poor business decisions forced Swissair to stop flying March 31, after 71 years of service. The airline has been replaced by a new, smaller carrier, Swiss International, a combination of Crossair and remnants of the Swissair fleet.
A judge in August authorized the sale of "in-flight" assets, and on Oct. 17 the warehouse doors opened at 9 a.m. to customers who had been waiting in line for five hours.
"The first few days we had queues over 400 meters long," said Filippo Beck, a partner of Wenger Plattner, the law firm working with the administrator of Swissair. "People were waiting up to three or four hours in the rain."
Items like ski suits for the Swiss national team (Swissair was a sponsor) went fast, contributing to $1.73 million in sales so far. A lot of the best stuff is already gone, Mr. Beck said, but there's still plenty left.
The first thing that greets customers at the sale are security guards, a necessary precaution considering only cash is accepted at the registers.
Just through the doors await 14 tables, each holding eight plastic bins full of silverware. The next room is full of alcohol, including Bacardi rum, Gordon's gin and Camus cognac by the minibottle ($1.40 each) or box.
The expensive items, like a $520 watch, are behind glass, and only the staff can retrieve them. Curiously, a single, large knife, probably a bargain at $10, is also in there.
Room after room is full of pillows, uniforms, fine silver, even packets containing a set of plastic utensils and a single napkin (a box of 250 for $7).
To get an idea of the immensity of this sale, just log onto the Internet. Here's a sample of the total inventory listed at the Kurt Hoss Liquidators Web site (www.hossliquidator.ch): 1,200 rolling tables used in first class; 8,000 children's baseball caps; 31,000 first-class amenity kits (night sets for brushing teeth, brushing hair); and 135,000 tablecloths.
The event is expected to last through the end of the year. Asked whether everything would be gone by then, a sales worker in a white clerk's coat replied: "I hope so."
That's because come January the sale of office equipment and computers gets under way.

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