The Ubiquity of Broken Electronics Pilfering by the TSA

An anonymous reader sent us a curious little email yesterday evening. She claims that she has found an easy and environmentally safe way to discard of broken electronics, doo-dads and gizmos: pack them in her check-in luggage and wait for TSA monkeys to steal them.

She claims that for the last five years, she has packed broken laptops, hair dryers, PDA, electric razors and even a counterfeit copy of Debbie Does Dallas into her check-in luggage, only to delight when these all go missing on the other side of baggage claim.

Our reader asks if this is common for all travelers: for broken items to be stolen and perhaps sold on eBay. I have to admit, I’ve never had it happen once, but our reader speaks with dead certainty that this behavior is as predictable as the rising sun.

What about you? Is this common TSA practice? Our reader’s email after the jump.

We noted with horror that those poor folks in England were forced to put their expensive electronics into their checked baggage. This brought to mind a personal joke of ours that we’ve been pranking for five years, now. We put our broken electronics into our checked baggage. With only one exception, they are gone when we get to our destination. The exception was a pda with a broken display. Clearly,the inspector had no use for it, but we got rid of it on the next trip by packing it in the original box.

So far, we have unloaded an old Dell laptop with a fried motherboard; 2 pdas, a dysfunctional electronic translator, a broken hair dryer, and my late uncle’s weird collection of 11 non-working electric razors. We also unloaded our copy of The Attack ol the Giant Mosquitos by placing the DVD into a case that featured our very own Photoshop/ink-jet rendition of Debbie Does Dallas.

So this week, we got to thinking about the TSA again. And we were wondering if you might query your readers about their experiences with stuff missing from their checked baggage. We can’t be the only people experiencing this phenomenon. In fact, we think it’s a really big problem, considering that stuff is stolen from our bag on every trip we make through US airports.

We should also note that this theft problem, at least in our experience, has been limited to the US. We have never had anything taken from our bags in Europe or Asia, even in really poor countries such as Myanmar and Honduras.

We think the TSA should be made aware that their inspectors do their Christmas shopping during working hours. And that there should be some accountability or some sort of insurance available to the weary, much put-upon traveller.

What do you think?


Edit Your Comment

  1. RandomHookup says:

    Let’s remember there are a lot more people than just the TSA playing with your luggage, including baggage handlers. At least the TSA-types went through a criminal background check. Doesn’t mean some of them don’t help themselves to the occasional battery-powered love machine, but they aren’t the only ones with access to your bags.

  2. sixtoe says:

    I’m calling bull.

  3. Ran Kailie says:

    I second that and call shenanigans.

    I’ve never had anything stolen from my bags ever, and I don’t know anyone who has this seems just a bit unbelievable.

  4. any such name says:

    I find it hard to believe as well. Not that I’ve packed much in the way of electronics, but I’ve made several Cleveland–>Chicago flights in the past year with various hair dryers, waffle irons (it was a gift!), spindles of CD and DVD-Rs… Hell, my bags have never even appeared to have been rifled through!

  5. Kos says:

    i call bs too. You would hear much more outrage in the papers if this was the case. I remember when the TSA informed travellers that they couldn’t lock their bags, etc. I expected to see a ton of outrage and fear of stolen items, but I never heard a peep in the news. Did anyone?

  6. Kangarara says:

    “I’ll get my broom!”


  7. Hitchcock says:

    I fly a lot on business and work for a high tech company and often check bags LOADED with all sorts of electronics goodness. Never had anything stolen.

  8. mactbone says:

    I’m surprised more stuff isn’t stolen now that you can’t lock your luggage. That was pretty jarring the first time I flew after that rule got passed.
    “If you don’t take it off here, they’ll just cut it off later.”

  9. pete says:

    and now for my next million-dollar idea..
    A suitcase with hidden cameras inside that take pictures whenever the suitcase is opened.
    No emails please, just send cash.

  10. RandomHookup says:

    Here are some examples of it happening:…

    Funny thing is, the first few articles I found were about overseas thefts. I’ll admit I didn’t look really hard.

    I did find a couple of TSA theft articles:

    But for 1 person to have so much stolen seems a touch fishy.

  11. Crissy in Honolulu says:

    Oh, come on, people, it totally DOES happen. My uncle had FOOD stolen from his suitcase once. That’s right: food, local specialty foods that he was taking back home with him after a visit, and pretty high quality stuff, at that, which we had spent good money getting for him.

    I consider myself lucky that I haven’t had anything stolen. While I do use TSA-approved locks (the combination type that the TSA handlers can open with a special key and that alerts you with an indicator when a key has been used to open it), I have had an incident wherein the lock indicated to me that a TSA employee had opened the lock but had neglected to leave one of those “your baggage has been hand-inspected” tags inside. When I wrote to the TSA to inquire about their policy regarding this, they gave me a real non-answer, and since nothing appeared to be missing, I shrugged it off. Again, though, lucky.

  12. Paul D says:

    Quick weird luggage story:

    Wife & I bought a clear blue plastic toilet seat (don’t ask) at
    Ikea in Virginia one Christmas. I was also given a Sony 19″ LCD monitor
    as a gift.

    On the flight back, we packed the toilet seat in the bottom of my
    suitcase and checked the monitor (in its original box) as a second
    piece of luggage.

    When we arrived home in Kentucky, I opened my fancy new monitor to find
    a note (ostensibly from some TSA person or baggage handler) that said:

    TOILET SEAT!?!?!

    Although the toilet seat was in my suitcase, the note was stuffed into the monitor box. I am not making this up.

  13. JoanLindsay says:

    A friend of mine had all of her jewelry stolen after she foolishly packed it in her checked bag.

  14. billhelm says:

    this seems made up.

    but i still wouldn’t check anything valuable in my luggage.

  15. Magister says:

    The TSA screeners are the same level of dirtbags that throw your bags around have been stealing for years. The minimum requirements for TSA are still a GED and low enough self-esteem to wear the horrible uniforms.

  16. Tankueray says:

    I always pack my pocket knife, and on my last two trips, it’s been molested without a TSA note. Because I’m a girl and I pack way more stuff than I need, I put everything in zip top bags and those “spacebags”. The trip to Orlando in January and Vegas in March yeilded the same result, my knife was outside of it’s plastic bag and just thrown in the suitcase. No note, nothing. I’ve always had my expensive makeup and other things in my carry-on, now I guess I’m screwed. Either I buy cheap makeup at a drugstore and wear a ponytail whereever I go, or I risk having the TSA steal it for their girlfriends(and I’m not saying they’re all men…)It had to have happened in DFW, after I checked my bags in at my local airport and presumably they were checked there.

  17. FLConsumer says:

    I still FedEx my bags to & from my destination. For $15 per bag (70 lbs, FedEx ground), it’s cheap peace of mind. It also means not having to deal with baggage claim or ticket counters if I get my boarding pass online.