States Making A Profit Selling Machetes, Knives, Fuzzy Handcuffs Confiscated By TSA

For all the stories we hear about people who inadvertently slip a knife or gun through airport security, there are countless other travelers whose contraband is confiscated after it shows up on the security scan. But what exactly happens to all that fun stuff?

According to USA Today, 30 different states have arrangements with airports and the Transportation Security Administration to take those confiscated items off their hands with the intention of selling them at auction.

For example, Pennsylvania has a warehouse in Harrisburg where all three of the New York City area airports truck the items taken from passengers by the TSA. Since 2004, the state estimates it’s made $700,000 by selling all those machetes, Swiss Army knives and other things that don’t immediately strike you as a security threat, like snow globes and fuzzy handcuffs.”

“We collected more fuzzy handcuffs than you would ever see in your life — boxes and boxes of fuzzy handcuffs,” says the executive director of the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property, who helped negotiate the deals with the airports after post-9/11 security resulted in a sharp increase in the number of items being confiscated.

While there isn’t a market for some of the confiscated goods, the items for which there is the most demand — pocket knives, scissors, corkscrews — are also the most frequently confiscated.

The state of California holds quarterly auctions of confiscated goods. The most recent sale brought in $9,800. While that isn’t a ton of cash, it’s essentially found money for the state.

But even though most states are in desperate need for cash, Georgia pulled out of the program in 2008 because, “It was a lot of work for very little return.”

Loot confiscated by TSA turns into revenue for states [USA Today]

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  1. EmanNeercs says:

    I’m both intrigued and slightly disturbed to hear about how many fuzzy handcuffs they’ve confiscated…Why are people taking these on planes? Why so many? For what purpose?

    • skwigger says:

      I would say it’s not so much to use on the plane as it is to use at the hotel on the other side of the flight.

    • kc2idf says:

      Presumably, those carrying them were not aware they were a security threat. I imagine that those carrying them probably had a far different idea on how to use them. I know I would.

    • ancientone567 says:

      They want to join the mile high club but in a kinky way!

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Vacation sex is the best sex.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      The best part is according to the TSA’s blog, handcuffs are permitted in carry on and checked bags.

      http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/09/lady-gagas-handcuffs-tsa.html

    • JasonK314 says:

      I’ve been a consumerist reader and tipster for a long time (I’m the one who sent in the tip about the Dilbert-Rebaterus strip). I also own and operate one of the world’s largest handcuff fetish websites. I can tell you that the TSA has been a huge pain with regards to fetish gear and to handcuffs in particular. All of the models and producers in this industry have to fly very often for photo/video shoots, conventions, etc. We are all well aware that handcuffs are NOT a restricted item are an acceptable item to pack in a carry on bag. We are also well aware that if any given TSA agent isn’t aware of this they can confiscate them and/or cause problems as they see fit. The end result is we either end up paying for a checked bag even if we don’t need the extra packing space, or mailing a box of supplies ahead of us to whatever hotel we’ll be staying at. It’s an added pain and expense that we have to endure just to compensate for TSA incompetence.

  2. ob1canobeans says:

    Here are the web address’s for the states that sell these confiscated goodies:
    http://www.eyeflare.com/article/where-buy-goods-confiscated-tsa/

    • Cat says:

      The link you are accessing has been blocked by the Barracuda Web Filter because it contains content belonging to the category of: Social Networking

  3. mikesanerd says:

    Who in their right mind buys used fuzzy handcuffs? I think that may be a case where it’s worth springing for a fresh one…

  4. PhiTauBill says:

    But handcuffs are apparently not prohibited, especially if they are fuzzy and you are Lady Gaga. http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/09/lady-gagas-handcuffs-tsa.html

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      Evidently, the TSA agents assigned to New York’s airports never got that memo.. Heck, all the fuzzy handcuffs I’ve seen have a safety quick-release latch which would make it difficult to restrain an unwilling subject for any length of time.

      But I will take heed of this latest example of capriciousness by the TSA and not fly with my Smith & Wesson cuffs… Oh wait! That’s right, I’m not flying again anyway until this waste of tax dollars and civil liberties is defunded.

  5. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    WAIT WHAT? I CAN’T BRING MY MACHETE ON THE PLANE?!?!? WHAT ABOUT MY 3RD AMENDMENT RIGHTS?

  6. Liam Kinkaid says:

    I get that they confiscate liquids because they could be used to make an explosive midflight. Even though it’s been proven that that can’t happen, I understand that’s the reason they give. But why, if they could be potentially explosive, do they all get thrown into a big bucket? Couldn’t the liquids mix in there and cause an even huger explosion?

    • eturowski says:

      Shhh! You’ll give the terrorists ideas!

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      I am waiting for the first suicide bomber to set themselves off in the security line. What are they going to do then?

      • Hotscot says:

        Is that your real picture sir?

      • The Lone Gunman says:

        As have I; I’ve been waiting for that to happen for some time now, and the only thing I can think of is that the terrorists don’t need to actually do it.

        Look at the expense and security theater they’ve gotten us to do now, with even more being piled on without even a verifiable threat demonstrated. (I’m looking at YOU, cupcake…) No additional effort is needed on their part–just release a rumor into the world and watch the monkeys dance to their tune.

      • bluline says:

        I’ve been saying that for a long time. The weakest point in airline security is the cattle-pen area where people line up to go through security. Anyone in that line could have a suitcase full of explosives and no one would know it until it was too late. And the affect on the airline system would be the same as bringing down a plane as I suspect the FAA would take the same steps to ground all traffic the same as they did on 9/11.

    • who? says:

      When I had a jar of peanut butter confiscated, I asked the TSA guy if he felt safe with that big trash can of bombs sitting right next to him. He just shrugged.

      At least now I know where to go to buy back my peanut butter.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i would like the TSA agent to explain to me how to make a bomb out of peanut butter. i would be most impressed

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

          IIRC, peanut butter has the same wavelength as some explosives, and shows up the same on detectors. So you could, in theory, freeze and hollow out a jar of peanut butter, fill it with explosives, and have something not show up correctly on a scan.

    • bluline says:

      Because it’s all security theater. We know it. The TSA knows it. The terrorists know it. Yet, for some reason, it makes the sheeple feel safer. Baaaaa!

  7. vliam says:

    I can only imagine how many tons of disposable lighters they accumulate.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I wonder what happened to all those nail clippers? The last time I flew, there was a giant plastic jar of them near security.

      • Nemesis_Enforcer says:

        My wife accidentally left a dime bag of weed in her purse, TSA missed that but caught her nail clippers of course.

  8. AttackCat says:

    Last time I took a plane, the person behind me in line had 2 garbage bags full of RAID. They were distressed to learn that they’d only be able to bring a handful of the cans on the flight. I’m no longer surprised at the things people want to bring on board.

  9. longfeltwant says:

    This is official government-sponsored theft. I myself have been a victim of this larceny.

    They could quite easily implement a system of returning items to passengers on the other side of the flight.

    • mike says:

      By “easily implemented”, you must mean the same government efficiency that is currently in place for screening these objects.

      • longfeltwant says:

        I guess so. The TSA was authorized and implemented in, what, six months? This system would be, what, 99% easier than all that? So it should have been authorized and implemented a couple days after the TSA first took over screening.

    • catskyfire says:

      They don’t have a teleporter to give you your stuff on the other end, yet.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      As much as I hate defending TSA for ANYTHING, they do have such a system. It’s called checked luggage.

  10. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    NY’s Office Of General Services, is generally MEGA weak ! I’d like to attend a recovered property auction, & tried to sign up, but that did not work !

    The site doesn’t even list auction dates, just locations for upstate locations. Garbage; but for some reason I’m not surprised.

  11. Judah says:

    Isn’t that essentially robbing citizens who travel by air?

  12. The Porkchop Express says:

    “The state of California holds quarterly auctions of confiscated goods. The most recent sale brought in $9,800. While that isn’t a ton of cash, it’s essentially found money for the state.”

    What did it cost to ship the items to storage, keep them in storage, pay people to work the autction, send out notices of the autctions….

    Even less found money.

  13. some.nerd says:

    Jamaicna security took my $100 worth of Rum and Jerk Sauce and threw it into a trash can, where it made a very audible *CRA-SHATTER*. Of course, we could re-buy it at the duty-free shop just past the checkpoint! Easily the worst part of my honeymoon, by far.

  14. phsiii says:

    Ever since they started the crazy security theatre, I’ve assumed that if your brother-in-law works for TSA, you get a Bowie knife for every birthday and Christmas. And I guess a jar of peanut butter and some makeup. Must get tiresome.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      Forget the peanut butter… how about all those iPads, dSLRs and other items which routinely disappear from TSA screened baggage? TSA = The Stolen Accessories?

  15. eezy-peezy says:

    I want to buy all the knitting needles, crochet hooks, seam rippers and sewing scissors they confiscated from Grandma.

  16. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    From PA Dept of General Services:

    TSA Surplus Property – Pennsylvania accepts property from TSA airport locations. The property consists of voluntarily surrendered property such as pocket knives, corkscrews, sports items, tools, etc. as well as lost and found property such as glasses, clothing, canes, etc. The property is currently available for sale at the Harrisburg State Surplus Distribution Center. Online sales of this property is coming soon!

    2221 Forster Street
    Harrisburg, PA 17105
    717-787-6078
    Hours of Operation:
    Monday thru Friday
    9:00 am thru 2:45 pm
    (excluding state holidays)

    They’re open for 7 hours, 45 minutes per day – who came up with that?

  17. human_shield says:

    By found money, do you mean STOLEN money? Because that would be more accurate.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      Is there a sign saying they are prohibited on the flight? Then you have two choices: Give it up, or arrange for it to meet you at the other side, either through mailing it or giving it to someone at the airport. But I bet you are in a hurry, and your flight leaves soon, so you don’t have enough time to do the latter. Your fault.

  18. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    TSA auctions are how I got a crapload of Zippo money clips for $1 each and also how I got 5 Wenger Travelers for only $20 on eBay to replace the one I thought I lost, but ended up finding a week after the replacements arrived.

  19. mcgyver210 says:

    Yes finally the Government admits to running a Highly Organized Criminal Enterprise.

    TSA = The Thieves

    Airport Authority = the accomplice after the fact

    Government = The Fence for the Stolen property.

  20. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    What gives the government the right to not only seize the property of people who have committed no crime? To confiscate private property without due process of law? Is the mere existence of a security checkpoint due process?

    And then to make a profit from it? Does the Constitution end at the security line? Really?

    A more legal and ethical way of handling this would be to send said item, at the owner’s expense, back to their home or other address. The government has no right to confiscate, and then auction, any property, no matter how trivial, without due process of law.

    Anyone complicit in this practice doesn’t understand, or is unwilling to hold the government account for, their Constitutional rights. At very least this matter should be taken to the courts to figure out its legality.

  21. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    What gives the government the right to not only seize the property of people who have committed no crime? To confiscate private property without due process of law? Is the mere existence of a security checkpoint due process?

    And then to make a profit from it? Does the Constitution end at the security line? Really?

    A more legal and ethical way of handling this would be to send said item, at the owner’s expense, back to their home or other address. The government has no right to confiscate, and then auction, any property, no matter how trivial, without due process of law.

    Anyone complicit in this practice doesn’t understand, or is unwilling to hold the government to account for, their Constitutional rights. At very least this matter should be taken to the courts to figure out its legality.

  22. shufflemoomin says:

    It’s bullshit that these people can decide something you legally own is dangerous, take it from you and sell it without your permission. There’s little reason why there’s no service where you pay them a couple of bucks and the thing is shipped back to you. I don’t even think you can request that someone drive to the airport and collect whatever they took from security. What they’re doing is essentially stealing.

  23. swimman1 says:

    Confiscating fuzzy handcuffs? I didn’t know they were banned! Those certainly are dangerous, although my wife kind of likes them :-)

  24. Swins says:

    Sadly this is a boondoggle waste of money. It’s done via contract and the contract costs don’t cover the auctions, the transportation and storage of the goods. The would be better served just throwing the stuff away.

  25. neilb says:

    I lost a $20 micro multi-utility knife and then tried to buy on on ebay. It appears that the people going to these auctions have a lot of knives. I got 6 random confiscated knives (including the same model I lost) for $10.
    This is a waste of time. It is not “found” money. It takes time to confiscate stuff, time to sell it, time to account for it, and it wastes citizens’ time rebuying their old stuff from a middleman.
    It is not like you have to be terribly creative to beat “it’s gone forever.”
    How about a prepaid $3 mailer that you can stick your US address on and it will be sent back to your home?
    Due to the costs (these procedures aren’t helping the costs) and airport time (ditto for time), flying is increasingly not worth the hassle.

    • Magical Pig says:

      I would be pissed if I lost my micro multi-utility knife. Ive used that thing so many times when no other tool was available. I know I’ve gotten mine through courthouse security but they may not have xray’d the loose change/keys bowl.