Samsonite refers simultaneously to a mineral and to a luggage brand that are unconnected in any way other than name; in fact, if the luggage company used the mineral as the source for their name, it would be rather insulting to their product line. Thus, what follows are two separate writeups on the duality of Samsonite.


Samsonite is a popular brand of luggage sold in most countries around the world; the brand's primary selling point is the toughness of the luggage.

Product Lines
The Samsonite Corporation sells luggage, divided up into five distinct lines:

Suitcases are their biggest seller. The company offers several different lines of suitcases, primarily differentiated by their color (the Portside line is bright red, for example). The biggest difference between individual suitcase models, though, is whether or not they come in hardside or softside designs: the hardside designs are very rigid on the outside and almost indestructible, but are heavier; the softside designs, however, are softer on the outside and generally lighter, although still quite strong. Most models in their suitcase line have wheels, but a few lack them.

Carry-Ons are mostly smaller versions of their suitcase lines intended for carrying onto airplanes or trains instead of storage in the luggage areas. Most carry-ons are softside, given that a major consideration of a carry-on is lightness and flexibility. Also noteworthy is that most carry-ons do not have wheels, whereas most suitcases do have wheels.

Garment Bags are modified versions of suitcases intended to hold suits and other formal attire in order to minimize wrinkling. This line is their smallest, as the market is appreciably smaller than for the other lines.

Backpacks and Duffels make up another Samsonite product line, and these are quite nice; the products are very sturdy and are perfect for short trips and for backpacking. The prices on these are appreciably higher than those you're likely to find in a department store, but on the other hand, I've seen Samsonite backpacks stand up to daily use for fifteen years and still work as good as the day of purchase.

Business and Computer make up their final line, and these are mostly smaller versions of the products available in the carry-on line, intended to carry a laptop computer or a small number of papers for business meetings. These work well for daily travel in addition to their use for trips.

Samsonite's warranty program on all of their luggage lines is quite good; they state that they will take back any clear manufacturing defect within ten years of purchase, but in practice, they'll pretty much take anything back. The luggage is quite sturdy, even as hard as I am on it, and if you manage to break something it's likely that there was some sort of minor defect that caused the issue.

Corporate Profile
The Samsonite Corporation had net sales of $769.3 million in fiscal year 2004, which is an impressive number considering the relative size of their market (high-end travelers). The company's sales roughly parallel those of the airline industry, meaning that in 2002 the company saw a dropoff in sales, but considering the company is a global one, the impact wasn't as severe on Samsonite as it was on United States domestic carriers like United Airlines.

The company is still paying off a hefty debt incurred due to poor business decisions and rampant overexpansion in the 1980s, but the company still managed to report a 44% gross profit in fiscal year 2004. In other words, Samsonite today is a very stable company and a good place to put your money for a steady long-term investment.

Individuals who are concerned with globalization issues might be wary of Samsonite, however. Samsonite subsidiaries employ workers in Bangladesh and Thailand and don't treat their workers well. A well-documented debacle between the workers at the Light House plant in Thailand occurred in 2002; over 800 workers were fired from a Samsonite supply factory in Thailand when they attempted to unionize to protest poor working conditions, unreasonable pay, and unfair hours. In the aftermath, over 200 Light House workers wrote a letter in their own blood to the Thai parliament in protest of the company's anti-union activities. Although practices have improved at the plant, the basic issue still remains: Samsonite utilizes and exploits cheap labor to make their bags.

Documentation for this section came from the Campaign for Labor Rights newsletter, October 2002, and Samsonite's SEC filings and corporate information.

My Experience with Samsonite
In general, my experience with Samsonite luggage was a positive one; however, I had an interesting experience with their customer service department when I was in a desperate situation in the United Kingdom.

You see, I heavily overfilled my Samsonite rolling suitcase (it was a Silhouette 8 model that I received as a graduation gift) with far too many clothes and souvenirs for my friends back in the United States, so when I tried to jam the thing shut by sitting on it while zipping it, the zipper popped off. So, there I was, due at Heathrow in a few hours for my flight, with a suitcase that had just exploded.

I'm the type of person who would rather get to work immediately on a solution, so I found the suitcase tag and called the Samsonite UK help number. Sandy, the woman who helped me, was nice, but had a deep Cockney accent that I could barely penetrate. Rather than helping me with my problem of locating another suitcase, she told me to go to a local convenience store and find some tape to hold the thing together. I asked about a return policy and she told me I would have to check about that back in the United States.

So, thanks to Sandy, if you noticed a large flush-faced man running through Heathrow Airport on the afternoon of July 10, 2003 pulling a very nice Samsonite bag mostly wrapped in tape, there's a good chance you've seen 18thCandidate before.

Once I returned to the United States, I had little trouble exchanging the bag for a new one, and given the excellent condition of the bag I returned, it most likely wound up with a replaced zipper and is now in someone else's closet.


Samsonite is a black, crystalline, relatively soft mineral (roughly as hard as a fingernail) primarily found in the Samson Mines of Lower Saxony in Germany; it is also found in some locations in Sweden.

Samsonite has very little industrial use; perhaps the most useful aspect of the mineral is the fact that it provides multiple nutritional minerals, making it perhaps useable in vitamins. It's too soft to serve in most industrial processes that might utilize it; even worse, the mineral is highly brittle. So what good is it?

Samsonite is simply beautiful. In its natural form, it is an almost-black crystal with a metallic undertone; if you cut it, it provides a dark-red coloration. Impure samsonite sometimes has copper in it which causes a greenish tint; iron impurities deepen the red coloration.

Because of this beautiful coloration and the relative rarity of the mineral, samsonite is rather prized among rockhounds and among landscapers who are looking for unusual and beautiful rocks to include in gardens. Large crystals of samsonite will sell for thousands of dollars to prospective international buyers; this is based on experience in attempting to acquire crystals of samsonite for the rock garden of a friend.

Material Data
Molecular Weight: 922.31
Proportions by Mass of Composite Elements:

  Silver     46.78 %  Ag 
  Antimony   26.40 %  Sb 
  Sulfur     20.86 %  S 
  Manganese   5.96 %  Mn 
Cleavage: none
Color: black
Density: 5.51 g/cm3
Diaphaniety: subtranslucent
Fracture: brittle and conchoidal when fragmented
Habit: prismatic
Hardness: 2.5
Luster: submetallic
Streak: dark red
Radioactivity: none

Thank you, MSDS!

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