TSA: Where Do All The Little Scissors And Knives Go?

We already know that the TSA sells scissors and nail clippers on eBay, but what else do they do with them? The Wall Street Journal has the answer:

Last year, according to Transportation Security Administration figures, airport agents collected 12,295 “clubs, bats and bludgeons”; 1.6 million “knives and blades”; and 74,665 other objects classified as “deadly/dangerous.”

The most lethal items are dispensed with promptly. Guns — an average of two a week are collected nationally — are surrendered to local police departments, which investigate their bearers. Hazardous chemicals are disposed of by SAIC Inc., a San Diego company under government contract.

The “voluntarily surrendered” stuff goes to people like Steve Elkin. He’s in charge of selling it at a store that just opened up in Georgia. Elkin is the director of the Georgia Surplus Property Division.

In Georgia, where the government once merely stockpiled surrendered items, the legislature last year passed a bill to allow direct surplus property sales to the public. Part of the reason, says Mr. Ekin, was to give passengers the chance — remote as it might be — to recover their goods.

The store, 3,000 square feet of polished concrete fenced off in a corner of an aluminum warehouse, boasts a large collection of potentially dangerous tools and trinkets. …Since the store opened, a trickle of passengers have come looking for their stuff.

“If they can prove it’s theirs, we’ll give it to them,” says Will Smith, the warehouse manager. A good description of the item suffices as proof, he says. So far, only two people have found their forfeited objects: a walking stick and a manicure set engraved with the owner’s initials.

Power tools, like the impact drill, are surprisingly common. So are toy guns and pistol-shaped belt buckles. Most common are scissors (over 4 inches is too long to carry on a plane), bottle openers, pocketknives and multipurpose hand tools. The store also sees hammers, dumbbells, circular saws, hockey sticks and nail guns, too. It once sold a chain saw.

In the market for some knives or power tools? It looks like there are some good deals to be had in Georgia!

By the way, who brings a chainsaw on a plane?

Carry-On Items Taken at Airports Find Happy Homes [WSJ]
Georgia Department Of Surplus Property


Edit Your Comment

  1. Moosehawk says:

    I just imagined the fresh prince of Bel-Air selling me back my TSA stolen goods.

    “By the way, who brings a chainsaw on a plane?”

    The better question is, how do you fit a chainsaw in an overhead storage bag?

  2. QuirkyRachel says:

    Ooooh, anyone know where we can find such sales in Illinois? There’s probably some good stuff out there. And some weird stuff. Who travels with a chainsaw?!

  3. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    and 74,655 other objects classified as “deadly/dangerous”

    54,328 of those were mine. :(

  4. missdona says:

    So that’s where my contact solution went!

  5. banned says:

    I’d like to know what happened to that lady’s sippy cup!. So basically they steal your stuff, then sell it for profit!? Hrmm, perhaps they should donate, free of charge, considering they didn’t pay a dime for any of it.

  6. smakdphat says:

    a lumberjack.

  7. vr4z06gt says:

    my guess would be someone who wanted 15 minutes of fame on TV by doing it this way he simply surrendered it probably with just a verbal warning and was hoping for some limelight.

  8. ncboxer says:

    These things could have been bought by someone on a trip and they just want to take them home with them. Can you put stuff like this with your baggage and not try to carry it on and it will be alright? I have no idea what the rules are.

  9. Asvetic says:

    Whoa, I work for SAIC. However, I didn’t know we had contracts with the TSA, or disposed of Hazardous Chemicals… This is very very interesting.

  10. 7livesleft says:

    My walking stick is still in my posession. Does that mean they didn’t do their job?

  11. homerjay says:

    @rocnrule: Who do you donate nail clippers to?

  12. raybury says:

    Chainsaws and other tools are probably from people who didn’t want to send their tools through the checked baggage, because it is hard to find a suitable way to pack them. (A golf bag might do the trick.) The restriction on tools is underreported.

    How is it that my 3 1/2″ office scissors with two sharp, thick blades is allowable, but my Swiss Army keychain knife with the 1 1/2″ blade, or Philips head screwdriver with a 2″ shaft, is a terror tool?

  13. banned says:

    I don’t know, I guess the same people who buy them, or the homeless.

  14. jeffj-nj says:

    How can they sell that stuff? It’s dangerous!!

    Seriously, have you any idea how much it annoys me that all of the water bottles, lotions, shampoos, and whatnot are so carelessly tossed into the same garbage can? Mere seconds ago, you were telling me that this substance was too dangerous to be brought on the airplane because it might be an explosive, and now you’re just tossing it in a thin $10 plastic barrel with all of the other “potentially explosive” confiscations?!

    Listen, either it’s dangerous or it’s not.

    Either you admit to me – if not with words, than at least by actions – that you know damn well there’s nothing more than water or shampoo or whatever in there, and furthermore, that you know damn well I’m not going to do anything harmful with that substance because I just plain can’t… OR… you continue the charade that the contents of that bottle might be dangerous and therefore the bottle needs to be TREATED AS DANGEROUS, which means more than just merely taking it away; it means disposing of it properly, in some kind of explosive-proof (or at the very least, resistant) container. And, for Pete’s sake, whatever you do, don’t put it with all the OTHER “unknown” and “potentially explosive” bottles – right next to members of your very staff, no less!

    And some of you think the TSA isn’t a farce.

    You people are idiots.

  15. anatak says:

    @homerjay: homeless shelters

  16. Youthier says:

    I know, the ban on this stuff is stupid and pointless, etc.

    But please stop trying to bring it on the plane. You know you can’t. I’ve never had anything taken from me by the TSA and I can be pretty flakey. You would have to be completely cut off from all media sources to not know that you can’t bring a knife or scissors on a plane (I’ll give the sippy cup lady a break). So please, check it or don’t bring it and then the TSA can’t profit off you or cause emotional damage or ruin your life.

  17. alhypo says:

    @jeffj-nj: Really? Who thinks the TSA isn’t a farce?

  18. nightshadowon says:

    @jeffj-nj: Preach it man! Very good post (minus “you people are idiots.”) and very Dave Berry-esque.

  19. TVarmy says:

    The TSA is as much about the feeling of safety as actual safety. Our congresspeople are not chemical/ballistic engineers. They don’t realize, and don’t have the time, to learn that liquid explosives are impractical, and even if they did, the public would still fear liquid bombers. Thus, the government will tend to vote for what feels safe, even if it really isn’t needed.

    The government needs a fact-checking neutral organization to help congress. It should have engineers, historians, economists, and other experts to help explain the situation to our congress.

  20. macinjosh says:

    I saw a guy on Airline lose a lighter he’s had for 15 years. Not worth much, but it had sentimental value. It’s ridiculous that they can’t just mail you your stuff.

    Also my dad just went on a trip and they confiscated his toothpaste because there was too much. They threw the whole tube out, instead of just squeezing out enough to reach the allowed amount.

  21. macinjosh says:

    oh and jeffj – you make a very good point.

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    Nail gun? At 30,000 ft, a nail gun is just a hunk of metal, there being a scarcity of three-pronged outlets on your typical jet. Even if there were, a guy’s going to… terrorize the immediate 20′ around him? Or better still, remove the freaken nails at the checkpoint and problem solved.

    Anyone with half a functioning brain would reali… Oh. Got it. Never mind.

    TSA! TSA! TSA!

  23. jamesdenver says:

    I just flew with a friend who’s a smoker. He had to give up his lighter, but upon landing of course the first thing he did was hunt down a light.

    I wondered why they just didn’t make a little bin when exiting the secure area for lighters and such. Kind of like the “leave a penny, take a penny” jar.

  24. LeJerque says:

    @macinjosh: It’s not so ridiculous that they can’t mail you your stuff. As courteous and as nice a service as that would be, we both know that if it were offered, people would abuse it. Suddenly the TSA is a free courier for lots of “potentially dangerous” gifts, because hey, free shipping. That would start to add up after a while, and you know where the costs would go? Those miscellaneous airport fees that tack on to your plane ticket.

    Still, more airports should facilitate the means for the passengers themselves to mail the stuff home. I’ve seen it once or twice; just outside the security line, there’s a little spot where you can get envelopes/boxes, pay for your own postage, and drop the stuff in a mailbox right there. Granted, the easiest solution is not to be carrying those ultradeadly mustache trimmers and belt buckles in the first place, but this strikes me as an ideal solution to the “Oh, damn, I forgot that was in my bag at all” folks. I do wish this were available in more places.

    And yes, total agreement with JeffJ-NJ. The best way to dispose of potential explosives is to heap them all together in a plastic bag, don’t you think? Way to put up appearances.

  25. ikes says:

    oooh, maybe i will search ebay for that dangerous yogurt which was taken from me last month….

  26. davere says:

    My other half smokes. He’ll hide 2 lighters in his carry on.

    Often they don’t catch either of them, sometimes they’ll catch one. Never both, they are too preoccupied with his dangerous 2″ bic lighter to think that there may be something else in the bag.

    I’m tired of this security theater and people with superiority complexes. The other day I was selected to carry a “time card” to see how long it takes me to get through security. I kept it. Why would I help them? Let them worry where it went.

  27. Anitra says:

    @LeJerque: My most recent flight (Rhode Island to Arizona), this exact thing happened to me – I forgot to take my multi-tool out of my purse, and they told me I had to surrender it. I was upset, because it had sentimental value – the TSA guy told me that as long as I was willing to go through the line again, there were mailing supplies available at the gift shop outside security. The tool did get back to us, even with postage due (had to pick it up at the local post office & pay the additional postage).

    It’s a good thing we came early to the airport, though. If we had been on a tight schedule, I wouldn’t have had time to go through security twice.

  28. their biggest sale: a seized WMD sold for $55 to some guy wearing those novelty glasses with giant nose and mustache

  29. tylerk4 says:

    My father is a construction contractor, and whenever he was forced to utilize air travel to get to a job, he strongly prefered packing any power tools he could fit into his carry on luggage, rather than let the poorly paid and somewhat larcenous baggage handlers/inspectors have a shot at stealing them.

  30. b8ty says:

    I have no problem getting my lighter through any checkpoint (and, no, I don’t need to stash it THERE). I carry one of the little Bic plastic lighters and just leave it in my pocket. Evidently there isn’t enough metal to set off the detector.

    I instantly become the most popular smoker in the lounge.

  31. BobbyMike says:

    I’ve noticed a growing trend at airports where smokers leaving on a flight will actively look for other smokers just arriving (usually outside smoking, waiting to get picked up) and give them their lighters.
    Nicer way to deal with it than to just toss it.

  32. MikeHerbst says:

    Depending on the airports you travel though, you CAN often mail the stuff home.

    The best part is at Hartsfield: There are two sets of machines selling USPS mailer boxes. The first is BEFORE the security checkpoint, the second is AFTER, for the convenience of those who are facing confiscation. Of course the second machine costs DOUBLE what the first machine costs.

    Talked about this with one of the TSA guys who’d just taken a pockenknife away from a boy scout: Guess which machine gets used more?

    RAYBURY How is it that my 3 1/2″ office scissors with two sharp, thick blades is allowable, but my Swiss Army keychain knife with the 1 1/2″ blade, or Philips head screwdriver with a 2″ shaft, is a terror tool?

    Right there with ya man. The day someone hijacks a plane with a Leatherman Squirt (1″ scissors, 1.5″ ‘blade’), I will eat the squirt I’ve been carrying in my pocket for years. I use the thing every damn day, except when I’m flying for work, which is usually when I find myself reaching for it most, since I never have a full toolkit away from the office.

  33. pestie says:

    By the way, who brings a chainsaw on a plane?

    Lumberjacks! Duh!

  34. sxs says:

    With regard to lighters, I usually ask for one once I disembark from the flight. Usually, the TSA are quite obliging about it, since they have, like, 50 just sitting around. I think of it as TSA just holding on to a lighter for me while I fly, lest I… set someone on fire or something.

  35. whysteriastar says:

    It always cracked me up that in the airport at Cincinatti they have a glass display of what you cannot bring on a plane and in it is a chainsaw. I could never believe people actually tried to bring them on planes, but apparently they do all over the country.
    Damn lumberjacks.

  36. 7livesleft says:

    I forget which airport I was in, but they also had a display of confiscated items.

    A weed trimmer cought my attention. Is there something going on on other flights I’m missing?

  37. bhall03 says:

    @ MOOSEHAWK: Once you start it up, you can adjust just about any space to hold a chainsaw.

    As for what the TSA does with all the collected items…

    Boss: Joe, as our employee of the day, we wanted to get you something memorable…

    ::Boss hands Joe a mismatched, used, manicure set::

    Joe: Uhh, thanks?

  38. mathew says:

    The TSA should ship all the confiscated bottled water to Fiji. I hear lots of people there lack clean drinking water.

  39. comedian says:

    @trai_dep: Look up “Paslode” nail guns.

    No outside power source required.

  40. jeffj-nj says:

    There was a poll here not too long ago about the “farce-ness” of the TSA, and believe it or, some people not only voted, but even commented to the effect that the TSA was, in fact, keeping us safer than ever before, and that the things they get away with are all peachy-keen and fine because it’s all in the name of safety. The thing is, of course, if this stuff really was in the name of providing actual safety instead of an illusion, I’d be all for it, but since it’s not.. well.. yeah, some of those responses really bugged me.

    Although, it is true, I probably shouldn’t’ve gotten offensive at the end there, I recently went through a lengthy (and likely costly, but we’ll see) ordeal all in the name of safety, but in actuality, couldn’t’ve have possibly done less towards such an end. So, yeah, I’m a little extra bitter this week about such things.

  41. axiomatic says:

    Fifty bucks says that the TSA flies all these confiscated goods to other cities for sale.

  42. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @trai_dep: Don’t forget the relative rarity of air compressors, as well. Either way, your power tools are not going to do much.

    A gas-powered chainsaw, now, that probably shouldn’t go on the plane.

    @MikeHerbst: Yeah. The 9/11 attackers used boxcutters, but I don’t think the same thing could happen again. People were more willing to go along with the terrorists at that time because they thought it would go the way other hijackings had in the past — plane lands in some remote airfield, hostages get booted off, et cetera. When the passengers on the fourth 9/11 flight found out what happened to the first three, they fought back — as I think others will now that they know their plane could be slated to crash into a building.

    Point is, no one with a Leatherman — even a full-sized one — is going to take over a plane these days. The other passengers will beat the living shit out of him.

  43. magic8ball says:

    They will confiscate your belt buckle if it is shaped like a pistol? Huh. I didn’t know there was a law against tackiness. Would that be considered “deadly” tacky, or just “dangerously” tacky?

  44. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @jeffj-nj: Thank you. That’s a good way to put what I’ve been bitching about for months. What is the difference between the 20 oz Coke I brought from home, and the 20 oz Coke I can buy in the ‘sterile’ area? About three bucks last time I checked.

  45. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    This is plain and simple theft. If I was randomly selected to carry a time card to go through security, that’s one more inconvenience. They will PAY ME for that inconvenience, or face my refusal like a man. They will BUY me water from me, or allow me to carry my water through security.

    Just because they’re from the government doesn’t give them the right to steal things from me.

  46. FLConsumer says:

    I just laugh whenever I see this crap. I know several people who’ve accidentally carried pocketknives & such without incident, but know plenty of people who’ve been given crap over carrying drinks/toiletries.

  47. Jesse in Japan says:

    I think they should do this with the liquids, too.

  48. 7livesleft says:

    @FLConsumer: “I know several people who’ve accidentally carried pocketknives & such without incident”

    Hell, I carried my Bic lighter in my hand with my cigarettes and they never even looked at it.

  49. synergy says:

    They should sell the stuff and donate the money to the “war” on terror. Less money out of my pocket at tax time.

  50. hadit says:

    I suppose this is where my husband’s shaving cream went that he packed in checked luggage on his most recent trip. Oh, and my last trip I had stolen out of my checked bag my alarm clock, hair brush and all my underwear. I suppose those were to dangerous to have on the plane. Either that or the freedom of the TSA to pull practical jokes on their passengers. I wrote a letter but they said I had no proof so they wouldn’t reimburse me.

    We also had a local dance team who was on their way to competition at Daytona Beach and the TSA took all of their bathing suit tops OUT OF CHECKED LUGGAGE. Honestly, how can they get away with stealing so much stuff out of checked luggage?

  51. RebekahSue says:

    The only thing I’ve had taken (as opposed to voluntarily given up) was a lighter I had in my camera case, which I’d used as my hand bag the night we went out (since I was taking my camera, anyway).


    I just flew with a friend who’s a smoker. He had to give up his lighter, but upon landing of course the first thing he did was hunt down a light.

    I wondered why they just didn’t make a little bin when exiting the secure area for lighters and such. Kind of like the “leave a penny, take a penny” jar.

    I’ve noticed, when I check my luggage curbside, that the gentlemen at the door have small bins
    of lighters, like the kind I have in my desk for extra pens. They’ll give a lighter to anyone who asks.
    (I’ve asked for “a confiscated lighter, please,” and they didn’t even blink. other than you know,
    for necessary reasons.)