Policy

TSA Employees Get Bonus of Peppers and Lotion

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ooh, I need new shoes

When I lived in Boston, I often had a yen for the spicy peppers offered at Midwest/Mid-Atlantic sandwich chain Potbelly. Like many, I also have an aversion to checking luggage. So even though Potbelly sells mid-sized glass jars of the peppers, I couldn't figure out how to get them back to Beantown. Reasoning that my sloppily-packed small bottles of liquids routinely went undetected, I decided to give smuggling a go and packed a jar of the peppers deep within my roller bag. They were, of course, immediately detected. As the be-gloved Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee carried my beloved peppers over to dump them, she said "If it makes you feel better, I've already emptied three of these bins today." It did not make me feel better. It made me feel worse. I wanted to tell the woman to keep them, take them home, and love them as I would have loved them.

An Allure blogger recently had a similar experience, but with fancy eye cream, and things went the other way:

Ever wonder what happens to your expensive face wash once the TSA confiscates it? That's what a Q&A in The Atlantic made us think about when a reader wrote in about an airport security person deeming her L'Oréal Studio Line Invisi-Gel too cool for the school that is domestic travel. She documented the fate of her product, writing: "I'd rather lose the $5 gel tube than pay a $40 bag-check fee. 'Enjoy it,' I said, concealing my irritation. She [the worker] replied, quietly, looking away from me: 'I will.' Do TSA employees get to keep this stuff?" The answer is, yeah, kinda sorta. While the official word is that, of course, it's all "disposed of," the street version is, hell yeah, we pocket the stuff. Ethical? Not so much. Then again, it beats your $200 eye cream going in the trash can. That's a relief, right? Um, right?

Obviously, there's a good reason for the official policy: TSA workers who were allowed to keep their confiscated booty would operating with some pretty screwed up incentives. 

Interesting bonus fact: Allure writers (sample headline: "The Year's Best Eyelash Looks") read The Atlantic (sample headline: "Pawlenty: No Plans Post-2010"). Good on 'em.

Note: Though I am a lady, I do not habitually read Allure. This item appeared in a Google News search for "TSA" which I was conducting in honor of TSA reauthorization season, which is now upon us.

Of course, some people make arty scissor spiders with confiscated TSA lots.