TSA Rules or Abuse of Power
We all want to be safe when traveling. I do believe that and follow the rules created by the TSA for what types of items are allowed in your carry on and checked in luggage. I check the TSA Web site on a regular basis to make sure in my extensive travels (for business and with my family) both me and my family are in compliance.
Well, I had a rude awakening at the Chicago O’Hare airport this Friday afternoon. I was on my way home after 2 weeks of travel through India and China. While overseas, I had picked up some items – both several gifts as well as a plaque for my participation as a speaker in a conference. I knew the plaque will generate additional inspection of my luggage so I was prepared for it, but what transpired was quite different.
As I went through TSA Pre-Check my bag was singled out for inspection – I expected that. The TSA officer who was supposed to do the manual check of the bag disappeared as soon as my bag was set aside. Very soon there were three passengers waiting in line. The TSA officer at the screening machine kept shouting out “Bag check on 3” – but there was no one to hear him. Very interesting….
Eventually, the TSA officer returned to the inspection station and brought in my bag. He quickly asked me if I had any award plaques or something similar in my luggage – to which I responded with “Yes” and pointed to the compartment where the plaque was. The officer obviously knew what he was looking for. He inspected the plaque by taking it out of its box and proceeded to test it for chemicals. All clear came and I thought I was ready to go…(that had happened at other checks on my way from India – e.g. in China)
Once that was done he proceeded to dig deeper in my luggage – next he picked up a gift I was carrying back to the States from India – actually Taiwanese origin as one of our business partners from Taiwan gave the gift to me while in Bangalore. I had promised to bring the package – pineapple candy – back to our team in the States.
Taiwan Pineapple Cakes in a gift box
The TSA officer asked me what the box was and when I described its nature and content, he proceeded to open it and started to paw thought its content.
Now, the box is full of individually wrapped candies, but still, what was the purpose of pawing through it???
This is where I started losing patience with the TSA officer. Why? Here is a long list of reasons:
- While the officer is supposed to be able to inspect any item in a travelers baggage, there is no reason to do so in a way which destroys the content of the item. In my case, the officer cut through the packing of the candy box — why was that necessary??? He could have easily wiped the surface of the box with the cloth to be tested on his chemical analysis machine….
- Furthermore – There was no reason for him to paw through the individually wrapped candies. Again, the officer / the TSA relies on chemical analysis by wiping the box, not on visual inspection of individually wrapped candies…
- Then comes the final item – to top it all off – the TSA Officer did not even change gloves before touching my items and furthermore touching the food. He came to his station with gloves on. Did not put new gloves before started handling my items and he DID NOT change the gloves before moving to the next person – after he was done with checking my items.
I decided that this is beyond simple checking – the officer reached too far – so I called for a TSA supervisor. First one supervisor showed up who kept telling me that the officer had the right to inspect my items as they detected a straight edge in my luggage. No matter how many times I stated that this was not the reason I was voicing displeasure — I had no problem with checking the plaque which caused the issue – the problem I had was with destroying the commercially packaged candy…
Eventually, a second supervisor showed up – this new guy shocked me further – his reaction was “Get ready for more…!” – he actually stated that in response to my description of why I was unhappy. The first supervisor eventually took my complaint in and gave me a form to fill out. The second one continued with statements to the effect of “we do what we have to do, you have no right to complain….”
Long story short, the TSA officers in some stations across the country certainly reach way over their responsibilities ! I say this based on my experience of going through different airports. Eventhough, we should be able to bring food items (non-gels, non liquids) through security safely and without loss – some officers certainly do not understand the concept!
Cutting trough a box of candy which is wrapped as a present and pawing through food items like candy with gloves that have been trough several bags is not a safety inspection but a certain way to destroy food items / gifts.
My recommendation to the TSA: Either post the requirements on your Web site and do not allow for any packaged food items to travel or better train your officers to respect the property of others. I will certainly follow the rules, let’s just make sure they apply to both us, passengers and TSA personnel.