TSA Martinet Claims Her Unpublished Rules Trump Real Ones

TSA, can you at least train your agents to do their jobs properly? We’d appreciate it even more if you’d discipline (read: fire) those who go all stupidly power-mad and think they have to “win” every encounter, even when it means making up new rules on the spot. Here’s a story of a soldier who lost a day of leave because one of your agents caused so much trouble. In the end, the soldier says he’s happy with the outcome—”Using standard Consumerist customer service doctrine (polite, patient, proper channels and then EECB), I won”—but we’re still floored by how difficult you made his trip home. Oh, and NWA, you were no help either.

First, I am active duty military and I only get so many days of leave; when extenuating circumstances happen to delay travel – I still get charged for the leave.

So there I was on Monday, 11 Aug in the Detroit Metro Airport which happens to be NWAs worldwide hub. I am there a little more than an hour and a half prior to my flight. I was scheduled to leave around 130p on a Monday.

When I checked in at the E-ticket console a message flashed stating that the flight was overbooked and that I was being offered a voucher. I arrived with the intention of checking my only bag because I needed to check a firearm – something that I have done several times. Current TSA policy on firearms is that they need to be in a hard-sided case and locked (my case was a standard manufacturer’s case that is completely hard-sided and has been through airlines checks numerous times).

I usually have a lock, but TSA always ends up taking it off and telling me I don’t need it. Of course this time I didn’t take a lock. The NWA agent told me, after I informed her of my firearm, that TSA wouldn’t check it because it didn’t have a lock, I told her I would talk to them and see what they would say.

The TSA agent told me that she wouldn’t take it without a lock. Trying to minimize time-damage, I asked her if a zip tie would do – logicizing (that absolutely has to be a word) that since law enforcement and military use zip ties in lieu of steel handcuffs to detain people, a zip tie should work instead of a mini lock that I could bend with my bare hands.

She said, mockingly, that I could not use a zip tie. I asked, “what constitutes a lock?” She replied, “A lock.” I politely thanked her for clearing that up for me. The NWA agent, who was trying to be friendly and helpful at a very busy point in the day, actually left the desk to go look for a padlock that they could sell me.

Okay, fair enough, rules is rules—get your OP-blaming out of the way now, because this is where it gets very silly.

While [the NWA agent] was gone, the TSA agent told me that she “can’t let this through, even if it has a lock on it it’s still accessible”.

I was confused and said that I did not understand what she meant. She again stated that the case was accessible even if it had a lock. I explained that I did not know what she meant but that TSA’s policy and website state the only two requirements (ammo notwithstanding) are a hard-sided case and a lock. She said, “Even if this has a lock on it, I’m not letting it through.”

I pulled out my 3g iPhone, pulled up TSA’s website and found the firearm policy and showed it to her. She said, “TSA sometimes gives us different policies than they give you.”

I responded, “Are you kidding me? I don’t think when it comes to firearms TSA is going to surprise passengers with some magical policy to prevent them from checking firearms they’re allowed to check.” She responded with, “I’m not letting it through.”

I asked, “Who do I talk to about getting this through?; she replied, “A supervisor.” I asked if I could please speak with a supervisor and she said, no kidding, “I am a supervisor.” Does anyone really believe that a supervisor of any kind is actually going to be on shift at the ticketing counter inspecting baggage and tossing it onto the belt?

I asked to speak to a supervisor, [and was told] iit would be 30 minutes before he arrived. Foreseeing a possible “late arrival” and subsequent loss of seat, I asked the same NWA agent if the vouchers were still being offered, she said yes and I asked if I could sell my seat back for one and she said, “No, you have to be at the gate.”

This I know to be untrue for two reasons: I’ve done it before and it’s a ticketing counter and I was asking for help with ticketing. I didn’t contest; I waited a few minutes and then went back to her and asked if I could call the gate from the counter and try to do it over the phone; she said “No, you have to be at the gate.”

Again, I know this to be untrue because I had just done it with NWA a few weeks prior, not even for me but on behalf of my fiancee. Regardless, I dropped it. The TSA supervisor was great: I gave him a quick explanation, asked him if my case was within policy, he said “Yes, what’s the problem?” To which I responded, “Your agent doesn’t know your policy and is trying to tell me that you guys have secret policies.”

He essentially ignored that, [but] he actually went and got me a TSA lock and gave it to me for free, inspected my bag on the spot and checked it through. After asking, he agreed to escort me to the front of security so I wouldn’t miss my flight.

Hooray! Through security! But of course they delay set up a chain reaction.

I asked the NWA agent for my boarding pass (she had taken it earlier when I’d asked for the voucher) – she told me I wouldn’t make the flight – it was about 15-20 minutes prior to takeoff, she had told me that at 10 minutes you are checked as late and the seat is given away.

I told her I would still like to try because I still want to try for the voucher, I explained TSA was going to escort me right through security and that I thought I could make it. She said, again, “You won’t make it,” and she took it upon herself to cancel me off of my scheduled flight and put me on the 730pm flight.

So after I got through security, I went to the NWA customer service center, picked up a “reservation” phone that automatically dials a reservations rep and after a couple minutes of explanation to her she gave me the number of the NWA Detroit Director of Operations (I don’t think she realized whose number she’d given me – especially considering the NWA agent at a desk didn’t know the guys name when I told her I needed to call him). This guy didn’t answer, I left him a message, I never got a call back.

I also called – because the TSA supervisor told me I might be able to get reimbursement – the Detroit TSA customer support manager. He called me back within an hour. I explained to him what’d happened. He stated that he would do an investigation and talk to his people to see what they say happened; gee, I wonder what they’re going to say. I asked him what their reimbursement policy was, should he conclude that I was right, he said “we don’t have one.” He went on to say that his agents err on the side of security. I said, this is absolutely not a case of someone erring on the side of security, she flat out told me hat she didn’t know the policy. He then changed his statement to “well, she erred on the side of safety.” I laughed and told him it was still the same, that she essentially told me she didn’t know the policy – not safety, not security. He said he’d do an investigation and get back to me, that was over a week ago.

I ended up volunteering for a voucher and was put up in a hotel overnight. I asked where my bag would be and was told it would be waiting for me in San Antonio. When I got to San Antonio, the NWA agent first told me it was on the carousel; the same agent, after the carousel was empty, told me she probably had it at the counter. When she finally met me at the counter, she told me she didn’t have the keys to the room and I had to do a claim.

After all of that, there’s a happy ending, but only because Matt wouldn’t let the matter drop. Here’s a good example of how persistence can pay off.

Later in the week I spent approx. an hour dialing various numbers and holding and pushing buttons until I finally got through to a person. At first, this woman was surprisingly friendly; she listened to my tale and told me that absolutely I should have been able to do the voucher at the ticketing counter; she told me she’d never heard a case like this, wanted to give me a voucher, but she said she had to go check with her “Sup”[ervisor] first.

When she came back, the warmth was gone and all I got was, “You were made late because of TSA, there’s nothing I can do for you.”

I told her I was delayed, but not made late and the NWA agent didn’t give me a chance to get the offered voucher. She responded, “Yeah, you didn’t get to the gate so it wasn’t NWAs fault,” to which I responded, “It was NWAs fault that I didn’t get to the gate.” I had to repeat that a couple time. She eventually said she would put down “rude behavior/treatment” by an agent and offered me a $75 voucher.

I said that I wasn’t treated rudely, and that I should be getting the flight voucher. She repeated the usual, I said “I don’t accept your premise” and she just stated that there was nothing she could do for me. I asked to speak to a supervisor – you know, the “Sup” she just talked to 5 minutes ago – and she said, I thought it was deja vu, “I am a supervisor.” I almost laughed; confused by her short memory I asked if I could speak to her supervisor; she said she could do an “escalation,” I said that would be fine; she took down my phone number and a good time to call and said that I would receive a call within 24 hours. I never received that call.

I waited a few days and then wrote an email to Kristen Shovlin (from your website) and Beth Reed (from some other website) – both listed as executive types. When I clicked on the “Beth” email link on the other site, Kristen’s email address came up; I manually typed in Beth’s. Within 3 hours I got a response from Jodee with the usual humminah humminah and I got the voucher.

Thanks for everything you do; hope this is helpful.


We won’t reprint Matt’s entire email, because we’re running out of space on the web for this story, but basically it was a slightly shorter version of what you just read with the TSA part reduced to “TSA delayed me.” At the end of the email, Matt states clearly,

I am sorry for my verbosity, but I feel strongly that I should receive a flight voucher. I tried all of the proper channels first and received essentially no resolution.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    What a pain…this and all these other stories make me seriously reconsider my desire to have a job where traveling for work is a common thing…

  2. pb5000 says:

    TSA is a mess at Detroit Metro, seeing as how the Detroit area is home to the largest Muslim population outside of the middle east, every wannabe TSA cop thinks they’re rambo with a mission to prove something. A friend of mine is a County Sheriff there and you should hear some of the stuff they have to deal with.

  3. Lewis says:

    It is very difficult to be in a stressful place (an airport), be racing against the clock, and feel as though no one is on your side. I feel for this gentleman’s plight and am glad that all ended well.

    Free advice: I recommend we have an on-site “passenger advocate” at all US airports to help mediate situations such as this, not unlike the IRS taxpayer advocate program.

  4. thebluepill says:

    Always Mail Firearms.. Its much less of a headache.

  5. jswilson64 says:

    It’s not just TSA, pretty much anyone who works at an airport is vulnerable to the “officiousness ray.”

    My daughter was arriving on a flight to D/FW from San Francisco earlier this summer. She had tried, and failed, to get on standby on an earlier flight. Earlier flight arrived at 4:30 pm with her luggage on board.

    Her ticketed flight was supposed to land at 7:00. Only her plane had to make an emergency landing in L.A. due to one engine showing a low oil pressure light. Plane finally fixed (the warning light was malfunctioning), and she was finally due in about 10:30 pm. At a different terminal from her standby flight (and from her originally scheduled gate).

    So, I go to the airport thinking I’ll stop by and pick up her bag from the standby flight, then go to the other terminal and pick her up. Her bag was no longer on the carousel, but was at a baggage services “lectern.” After a 10-15 minute wait in line to speak to the Wizard of Luggage, I asked the guy for my kid’s bag. He says no. I show him my copy of her e-ticket itinerary, and my drivers license that has the same home address as the one that’s visible on the luggage tag. No dice. No claim check, no bag. “Supervisor” concurs.

    At this point, I started to lose it, because at D/FW, nobody checks baggage claim checks when you leave baggage claim. I could have gone to the carousel at 4:30 and picked up my daughter’s bag and left with it without anyone saying anything. I could have left with just about anyone’s bag, for that matter, and nobody would have said “boo.” But because some officious minimum-wage worker with a barely-understandable foreign accent had the bag in his custody, I couldn’t get it. Not without going to the other terminal, picking up my daughter, and driving back to the terminal where her bag was being held hostage.

    By the time we got back, there was another guy on duty who couldn’t believe what his co-worker had put us through. I was just glad to get out of there.

  6. ClutchDude says:

    I think we see the problem here and we can begin discussing it for what it is….

    Travelers are airline companies number one problem.

    Think about it…
    Who caused the problem here: The Traveler
    Who just “had” to fly: The Traveler
    Who insisted on bring luggage:The Traveler
    Who costs fuel and space to lug around the country: The Traveler
    Who demands compensation for when a problem develops with the above: You guessed it.

    The only way I see Airline companies ever surviving long term is to eliminate this so-called traveler problem. Then, the airline companies will be able to finally succeed with their number one expense gone.

    Besides, we all know our active-duty soldiers all have luxury cars, big houses and are filled with a desire gloat it over others. They totally don’t deserve any extra consideration, especially from our expertly trained airline industry and TSA personnel.

    Enough mocking. Seriously? They really said “I’m the supervisor?” I mean, wow. Once I’ve heard, but twice.T hat’s a new one to me. Good for him to get what they owe.

    Also, what is with people never calling back? That seems to be more commonplace than anything. Lack of courtesy or outdated custom?

  7. AdmiralApathy says:

    That is a horrible story becauase he lost more than a day of his leave. He lost all that time that he should have been enjoying on the phone or sending emails.

    Thank you for your service and hopefully your next leave will better.

  8. Parapraxis says:

    That post made my blood boil. I feel for the OP. A complete waste of time.

    Does anyone feel safer by what the TSA does?

    Hell, I’d feel safer if that guy just brought the goddamned firearm on board.

    I trust him with a gun more than I trust the fucking TSA to check my luggage.

  9. nicless says:

    I have never had a problem with the security at Detroit Metro. Flying 6 times over the past year, and I’ve never had an issue.

  10. The_IT_Crone says:

    They really like picking and choosing who gets to go on flights, don’t they? When my boyfriend was finally returning back from Iraq (36 hours of maze-like travel) near Xmastime he was nearly booted from an overbooked flight because – after a glance at his empty ringfinger – “some people have families that they’d like to spend the holidays with.”

    Honestly, I wanted to find out who this person was so I could tear them apart… but I obviously digress…

  11. Con Seannery says:

    TSA: How can we ruin your trip today?

  12. bobpence says:

    Perhaps the check-in agent from weeks prior was going above and beyond, perhaps with an already-full flight, and this one just could not because of a different flight status or just the high customer volume the OP mentions. Nonetheless she took it upon herself to rebook him, perhaps she should be thanked for that since the delay was cut so close and she probably sees I-can-make-its fail all day. I have to cut her some slack, and so NWA, despite their general evilness. Take the $75.

    The TSA goddess is the real culprit here, you should have quoted her back to her supervisor about how even with a lock she had said she wouldn’t let the gun through.

    The OP’s mention of leave time is no different from those of us in any other profession, and since he volunteered for the bump voucher for the later flight (and got one; how much does he want NWA to pay him to fly?), and was put up in a hotel, he has no claim that NWA made him lose a day.

  13. chiieddy says:


    Does anyone feel safer by what the TSA does?

    Bruce Schneier calls the TSA and most of their antic “Security Theatre”. Things that make you think they’re doing something to keep you safe, but in all actuality does absolutely nothing to stem any threats whatsoever, and sometimes, makes it easier for threats to get by.

    An example of security theatre is the TSA not allowing liquids on board… unless they’re in 3 oz containers and in a clear bag.

    My favorite security theatre is done about once a month at Logan Airport in Boston. I see the state police have set up a barricade well before getting off the highway when they put up their signs they’re checking all cars entering the airport. Certainly there’s plenty of time for someone to abort and head into the Ted Williams tunnel instead and go the next day to perform their acts of whatever instead. You know, when the state police aren’t checking all the cars.

  14. The_IT_Crone says:

    @thebluepill: … did you miss the part of this being an active duty person on leave? I’m pretty sure if they MAILED their weapon they’d get in serious trouble, even IF it arrived.

  15. Sian says:

    @thebluepill: You’re kidding, right? At least here in California, they have to be mailed to a registered dealer, and of course you have to arrange it with the dealer first. 99% of the time checking a firearm into baggage is zero hassle. Those of us who do it a lot know the procedure a whole lot better than the folks at the airport, and know how to get things through with the least hassle from the airlines and TSA.

  16. SadSam says:

    The TSA rules change depending on what day, which airport, and which TSA agent you get. I think I read some where TSA switches the rules around to stress out passengers as part of the behavior assessment security or something like that. Basically they change the rules or change the instructions to keep the flying public on their toes and then who ever freaks out the most get extra attention.

    Take your shoes off, put your shoes on, keep your boarding pass out, keep your ID out, I don’t need your ID, etc. I follow the same procedures, shoes off, boarding pass and ID in my hand at all times and minimize the amount of carry on luggage (the extra bag fees are making security clearnace worse) and I smile like a little sheep (my avatar is actually a little lamb – not a sheep).

  17. jamesdenver says:

    This should be escalated through the proper channels. I witnessed an odd TSA screening of a disabled child last month. I posted it and sent it into their blog and DHS/TSA comment area.

    Surprisingly I received two responses from different people within a day.

    my complaint:


    and response:


    Again surprisingly the TSA IS monitoring complaints and being vigilant about concerns. The office in Denver has a “customer service manager” – which is weird because the flying public are not really customers in the sense they make a customer based decisions or have a choice in their screening process – but given that they are being aware.

    But it seems they’re spending more time responding to complaints and writing their blog than training their agents to be consistent and maintain continuity across all airports.


  18. Jubilance22 says:

    @nicless: I fly in and out of Metro very often, since I’m from Detroit. Their security does suck though, and I’m forced to get to the airport ridiculously early to deal with the drama that is security. I frequent several airports over the course of the year, and DTW is the only one that makes security such a hassle.

  19. Marshfield says:

    What happened with the bag? It had a GUN in it, did it not?

  20. ThinkerTDM says:

    @nicless: You’re right. Obviously this guy is a liar.

    @bobpence: Leave time is a LOT different for people in other “professions”. When this guy is on leave, he doesn’t have to worry about getting blown up with an IED. Is that how you view your day off?

  21. bifloman says:

    Do like they do in Israel; post the National Guard, armed with machine guns, at all gates and allow them to profile passengers. Of course that will never happen here; we are so PC that we would rather allow ourselves to suffer aggravation, frustration and humiliation than offend anyone.

  22. johnva says:

    @The_IT_Crone: Wow, that’s terrible treatment. I can’t believe any airline employee would take it upon themselves to subjectively decide whose travel is more important at the holidays based upon no more information than that he was a presumably unmarried male traveling alone. Oh wait…I can easily believe it.

  23. mikemar42 says:

    We need to fight the war on errorism.

  24. BrianDaBrain says:

    Wow, I feel sorry for you. Really. I hate airports and airport security. Almost everybody involved with the TSA is… I don’t want to say corrupt… but power hungry seems to fit the bill.

    Ignorant might also work. I mean, “It’s against policy” is a cop-out excuse. It’s like hanging a bright red neon sign around your neck that shouts “I have no clue what I’m doing!”

  25. TideGuy says:


    While a lot security in general is “Security Theatre” to say that “in all actuality does absolutely nothing to stem any threats whatsoever, and sometimes, makes it easier for threats to get by” is overboard.

  26. ViperBorg says:

    @Marshfield: THANK YOU! I’m wondering the same freakin’ thing.

  27. jjeefff says:

    I have a problem with TSA agents appearing to have police powers when they are not sworn peace officers. I think every security checkpoint should have a real police officer, sheriff, or FBI agent who is the direct supervisor of the TSA agents. This officer can respond to problems and directly interact with the travelers and TSA agents.

  28. spoco says:

    agree on Detroit/Wayne County airport. Worst in America. I fly a lot and have had three separate problems. All involving Northwest and all involving Detroit.

  29. bobpence says:

    @ThinkerTDM: We’re on the same side, but IIRC there are very few IEDs in Austin. The extra leave day was voluntary, and griping about it only adds unneeded detail to an admittedly verbose letter.

  30. incognit000 says:

    Wait, I think I played this game before, and know how to solve the puzzle.

    USE firearm ON TSA official.

    Did that work, or do I need to reset and retry?

  31. Darkwing_Duck says:

    Good grief, why are some drones so power hungry? Some people feel so desperate to legitimize their position that they’ll make arbitrary rules up. Some sort of ego thing. I was at a Rite-Aid around Christmas, buying some soap (or something), and I’m dead tired because I’ve had so much work to do. I’m spaced out, not paying attention, hand over the money to the cashier/manager without looking at her. I told her I’m sorry, just a little spaced out, and she looked at me like I was from Mars and said “Are you OK?” I returned the funny look, puzzled at the unwarranted suspicion by this amateur psychologist. I told her Merry X-Mas, she said merry x-mas sir, still with the note of suspicion on her face and in her voice. Next thing I know she says she’s calling the police. Of course, I’m clean, and there’s no way I could even get arrested, but I bolt out of there anyway. It was strange.

    Yeah, seems OT, but the point is people overstepping their bounds and being incompetent.

  32. johnva says:

    @TideGuy: How is it overboard? Security theater like TSA is fond of DOES objectively reduce actual security. I’ve seen little evidence that most things TSA does actually improves aircraft security. For example, they spend a lot of time looking for weapons being carried by passengers. But is this really such a threat? Maybe it would be better if normal people WERE allowed to carry weapons such as knives on planes, since then at least if a terrorist takeover were to take place on an plane there would be other armed people besides the terrorists.

  33. Etoiles says:

    @bifloman: In some transit hubs, they do that also. I’ve had some, “What is this, a WWII movie?” moments in JFK, Penn Station (NY), Grand Central Station (NY), Union Station (DC), and Logan airport (Boston). There’s something disturbing and surreal about traveling through normal American hubs and being stared down by ten guys with firearms larger than my weekend bag.

  34. Slytherin says:

    Notice how most of the egotistical powertrips come from WOMEN. Just saying…

  35. tedyc03 says:

    Actually secret rules are not uncommon for TSA. There are public flight rules for DC and then there are classified rules…I know, I was there when they were written. Stupid? Yes. Real? Yes.

    In this case, I’m sure the TSA flunkie was an asshat. But secret rules don’t surprise me at all.

  36. zigziggityzoo says:

    I hate hate hate TSA Rent-a-cops with their iron-on transfer badges. Worse than mall security on their segways.

    Everything about DHS these days is all show. Get rid of that waste of money.


  37. johnva says:

    @tedyc03: I don’t consider myself morally bound by any “secret law”.

  38. TideGuy says:


    Security Theatre – “Things that make you think they’re doing something to keep you safe, but in all actuality does absolutely nothing to stem any threats whatsoever, and sometimes, makes it easier for threats to get by.”

    Let’s look at the security check point:
    Checking IDs & boarding passes – useless except for the very inept (i.e. your average noncriminal).

    Metal detectors/X-ray machines – useful in verifing that guns, bombs materials, etc. are not allowed on flights. Reducing the chance of Knives to a point but I could get one on a flight if I wanted to.

    Do these “stem all threats.” Absolutely not. Do they stem some (and arguable the majority)? I would say yes and that is more than “absolutely nothing to stem any threats whatsoever.” Do they make threats easier to get by? I would say no. You have to understand that they usually stop what they are designed to stop. I’m not saying that TSA doesn’t need improvement and that the were way off in the OP case. I’m also not arguing that there are things that could be done to damage an aircraft or cause panic that TSA doesn’t screen for but you do have to balance what people are willing to undergo.

    It’s a basic example and I’m sure we could discuss this in greater detail but with the limited space of this discussion area and wanting to stay on topic we are limited.

  39. johnva says:

    Oh, and I have to say that since in a Constitutional Republic like ours the government’s authority to create laws derives solely from the consent of the governed, a secret law is technically not a law at all (since if it’s secret, it can’t have been debated in public nor could the public have given their consent to it). Now they can try to use force to make us comply with arbitrary secret rules, but we are not morally bound to follow such rules and actually as citizens of the Republic we have a moral duty to refuse.

  40. TideGuy says:

    @johnva: “I don’t consider myself morally bound by any “secret law”.”

    Hey, we agree on this one!

  41. bilge says:

    @thebluepill: Handguns can’t be mailed, longarms through the postal service need to go to an FFL if the shipment crosses a state line.

  42. HFC says:

    @jswilson64: Don’t you hate it when someone follows the rules and actually does their job. It’s so annoying that you were inconvenience by someone ensuring you didn’t steal another persons luggage.

    For all they knew, you could have been an ex-husband who hadn’t changed their license and you wanted to take all of her crap. Don’t get pissy with them for protecting your daughter’s belongings. I’d be more pissed that they don’t usually check the baggage claim tickets.

  43. verdantpine says:

    To the OP – I hope that you get your voucher. In situations like this I usually send a CMRR letter to the head of the company, or the head of the department that handles this. Whatever happens, I hope they do right by you, and knowing what that leave meant to you, I hope it never happens again!

    @Darkwing_Duck: I think recent actions by the Bush administration have goaded people who are already naturally suspicious.

    Then you have to factor in government employees who are undereducated about the rules. We see this all the time with the post office (we are “moderate” shippers through our business, etc.) We’ve often had to bring in copies of the Direct Mail Manual to point out that no, your made-up rule does not exist. Then, when we first got to Texas a couple of years ago, some tin martinet at the local post office refused to let us rent a PO Box – even with our military IDs clearly showing all the data needed. They made some specious excuse about terrorism and 9-11. I think I opened my first PO Box in something like, 1992, and have had one in most of the cities where I’ve lived, including post-911. Never experienced anything like that before!

  44. bigduke says:

    Another issue with airlines today is chronic understaffing. I have on at least two occasions witnessed a customer having a very normal dispute with a ticketing agent, (Flight cancelled and needs rebooking, etc.) when the agent suddenly calls over local police to resolve the dispute. In the past a “supervisor” would be called to settle the matter. I think all the “supervisors” are now working the counter, and getting the police to do the jobs that they used to do.

  45. yo, naomi leon (nee captain_underpants) says:

    @bifloman: yes because racial profiling makes things easier for everyone (except for those pesky brown folks, but whatevs).

  46. warf0x0r says:

    Has the TSA replaced the IRS as most hated government agency yet?

  47. verdantpine says:

    @johnva: No kidding! Here’s the flip side, too … unmarried people without girlfriends, boyfriends, etc., may not be getting lots of email or mail from their friends and families while they’re away, and you could argue that their need is greater in some cases. And I say this remembering all too well being separated from my active-duty spouse.

    Lots of those single folks rely on the kindness of others, often the married couples in their unit. I was proud that my AD brother and his veteran wife took in many singletons during the holidays. They remembered what it was like to be single in the Army.

    (By the way, folks with partners, families, homes – now’s about the time to invite your single friends – military or not – with no family to speak of, over for the holidays).

    A friend of mine spent the first several years of military life rarely hearing from people back home. He told me later on that he was grateful I’d kept in touch – though it wasn’t hard work or anything! what is wrong with some people?

  48. johnva says:

    @TideGuy: I’m not convinced that the screening methods the TSA uses are even nominally effective against the threats they claim they are trying to prevent. I actually believe it would be very easy for a terrorist to get a gun or something past the TSA. And remember, the 9/11 hijackers used knives and fear to accomplish what they did.

    Another issue is the fact that any terrorist would go for the weakest link in the security chain. Spending lots of resources attempting to prevent the kind of threat we’ve seen before just guarantees that terrorists will do something different in the future.

  49. RandomHookup says:

    Just because they are offering vouchers, doesn’t mean you would get one anyway. Most of the time, they don’t even need the number of volunteers they get. If you weren’t at the gate 1/2 hour ahead of time, they had probably gotten all the people they needed to volunteer.

  50. vivelafat says:

    @thebluepill: HE’S IN THE FUCKING MILITARY! Maybe he didn’t know when he would get leave, maybe he needed his fire arm up until the date he left. “I always mail my firearm” Well aren’t you a daisy.

  51. TideGuy says:


    We disagree on the first point. Why didn’t the 9/11 hijackers use guns or knives instead of boxcutters? Because guns and knives were at the top of the list to stop from passing through security. The risk was too great so they took an easier way out.

    “Another issue is the fact that any terrorist would go for the weakest link in the security chain. Spending lots of resources attempting to prevent the kind of threat we’ve seen before just guarantees that terrorists will do something different in the future.”

    I agree. The 9/11 hijackers got around the system by using box cutters that were not prohibited and techniques that were never used before (taking over the plane without a need for the pilots, flying, and crashing the planes). It’s unlikely that these tactics would work if used again. I think we both agree that stopping the unexpected is what is important but it is by definition the most difficult to stop.

  52. Kaisum says:

    And I bet if there was never a stink about any of it made (Which wasn’t an option as you could not travel without your weapon) they wouldn’t have black balled you. But that’s the way people get through their day–by being assholes to other people. Sucks your time that could be spent with your family was derailed by selfish assholes who make it a point to be a thorn in other people’s sides.

    Rest assured, they’ll burn in hell.

  53. floraposte says:

    @johnva: What you’ve seen isn’t the same thing as “objectively reduces,” though. Our individual observations aren’t a statistically significant sampling, even if we were in a position to know what has been averted as well as what happened. Of course, it’s very difficult to know what’s been averted, and without it there’s no way really to judge, so claims of success are about as questionable as claims of failure.

  54. thebluepill says:


    Actually, You may mail a Firearm to Yourself at any address legally.

  55. bifloman says:

    @captain_underpants: Thank you for proving my point: we are so PC that we would rather allow ourselves to suffer aggravation, frustration and humiliation than offend anyone.

  56. Major-General says:

    @thebluepill: Ahh, yes, with the ground only service and only two and from licensed dealers. Less of a headache indeed.

    @chiieddy: Exactly. What can I do with four ounces of liquid instead of 3? Have another whisky?

    @SadSam: That’s what I was told by someone in Wichita. Back when you could still wear shoes.

    @HFC: Have you ever had to show a baggage claim ticket at an airport? I haven’t…except for those times when NWA lost my luggage.

  57. erratapage says:

    @johnva: Next time I’m trying to get to my grandma’s deathbed, I’ll remember to refuse to obey the TSA’s secret laws.

    I have a moral obligation to do a lot of things. Sometimes, the number of obligations overwhelms me. I guess we all have to do a little triage when it comes to our conscience.

  58. thebluepill says:

    May a nonlicensee ship firearms interstate for his or her use in hunting or other lawful activity?

    Yes. A person may ship a firearm to himself or herself in care of another person in the state where he or she intends to hunt or engage in any other lawful activity. The package should be addressed to the owner. Persons other than the owner should not open the package and take possession of the firearm.

  59. thebluepill says:


    I serously doubt this was his military issue weapon. I would say this was something personal in nature.

  60. jswilson64 says:

    @TideGuy: Metal detectors are only useful for detecting weapons made out of

    (wait for it)


    X ray machines are only useful for detecting weapons that

    (wait for it)

    look like weapons.

    We have no defense against someone walking on board an airliner with a volcanic glass (or fiberglass, or some other composite material) knife in his pocket. And no defense against someone who figures out how to make a handgun that, when disassembled, doesn’t look like a handgun.

    Security theater.

  61. booksy says:

    I just find this odd because when ever I flew I just showed my Military ID and TSA always let me go past the checkpoints.

  62. thebluepill says:


    Thats a really good point.

    I think you would be fairly hard pressed to make a firearm or amunition out of a non-metal material. Even carbon fiber would have difficulty standing up to chamber pressures.

    My local Airport now has a machine that blows air over you to detect explosives and gun powder.. kinda cool.

  63. Norislolz says:

    I fly once a month from work, usually transcontinental.

    I used to think dumb families on vacation completely unprepared were the worst. Now it’s definitely TSA people. I don’t think I’ve ever had a positive experience with them.

    TSA rep has to be a job for someone who has a mural of American flags screaming bald eagles on the walls of their home and has never had a position of authority before.

  64. The_IT_Crone says:

    @johnva: I’d give LITTLE in to say he was in really haggard shape so it could even have been classist… but wouldn’t anyone look bad after being forced to fly 8 hours in the opposite direction to wait in a frozen hanger in Kazakhstan for 12 hours then flying over the ocean to Midwest, USA after being stationed in the sandbox for damn near forever? And if someone clearly was in bad shape from traveling a long time wouldn’t you take “no” for an answer, instead of snapping back rudely that OTHER people had families and that he was being selfish not to give up his seat so that THEY could get home?

    I was ready to fly to the airport to throttle the … (no words that aren’t swearing are appropriate). I have a temper as it is but to presume he had no one anxiously waiting for him at home is… sick.

    They also lost all 9 of his bags. Including his gun. Which the airline later found and had delivered about 4 weeks later.

    @verdantpine: When he was over there last time I organized gift drives for the single soldiers/w-o families. He’d have to keep his eyes and ears open and a lot who didn’t get care packages from home, got one from me. :)

  65. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @Slytherin: Wow. Bye bye, troll.

  66. yo, naomi leon (nee captain_underpants) says:

    @bifloman: it’s so pc of me to be against racism, isn’t it?

  67. jswilson64 says:

    @HFC: Yep, I hate it when someone decides when and where to enforce the rules that they’re supposed to enforce on everyone. Sure do. “Sorry, we don’t give a $hit about your baggage getting stolen off the carousel, but once I’ve walked my ass over there and rolled it back over here, well now the rules apply.”

    But I’m sure I’m wierd that way. Everyone else likes it when rules are applied arbitrarily and capriciously – that’s why nobody ever posts about crap like this on Consumerist.

  68. papahoth says:

    @SadSam: you read it somewhere? National Enquirer perhaps?

    @tedyc03: yea@

    Slytherin: and most stupid comments come from harry potter fans?

  69. GrandizerGo says:

    @jjeefff: While I agree with you, the problem is that the people with the authority will cost a LOT more than the TSA people they use.

    And heaven help us if they trained TSA people to the level needed to do as you said above…

    In MA, one officer, (Obviously you would need many more for each terminal) cost a minimum of 40 bucks an hour, figure 9 hours and 3 shifts by 365 days, not counting holidays and people working on vacations which they then charge double time… You are looking at a minimum of 1 million a year per 24 hr period per terminal / group of 3 officers per day assigned to a terminal.

    Logan would easily cost more than 10 million…

  70. johnva says:

    @erratapage: I agree that it’s hard to do. But I think things like secret laws are where we start to cross over from “democratic government” to “authoritarian regime”. I agree with what you’re saying, but I think there are times when the correct response is to take a stand. I will comply most of the time, but if I ever have a serious problem with TSA mistreatment you can bet that I’m going to refuse to obey them until they can show me the policy or law that authorizes their actions. If that has consequences, I’m going to lawyer up.

  71. bifloman says:

    @captain_underpants: This has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with protecting us; which is one of the few jobs the Founder’s gave the government (but that is another discussion). Generally, a terrorist will fit a certain profile (and before you say it, yes there acceptations – Tim McVeigh). If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear about. It works in Israel, it could work here.

  72. Nofsdad says:

    Always at least one of those on every thread.

  73. yo, naomi leon (nee captain_underpants) says:

    @bifloman: are you honestly saying that it’s ok (ideal, even) for government employees to choose whom to inspect (harass?) more thoroughly based on the color of one’s skin??? well then, why not go further and have a “white line” and a “colored line”?

    i hope i’m wrong, but i get the feeling that when you say this has to do with protecting us, the “us” you’re referring to is white people.

  74. SinisterMatt says:

    @TideGuy: @johnva:

    Exactly. It keeps the amateurs from doing something stupid. It’s like locks on cars or houses: If someone really wants the car or what is in the house, they are going to find a way. Likewise with airport security. If someone really wants to hijack an airplane or whatever, independent of what the TSA does, they will pull it off.

    That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try, though. Security theater does have its benefits, mostly a feeling of calm for passengers. That and it employs people, too.


    I think that the Current Occupant’s (to quote Garrison Keillor) administration gets its authority to institute arbitrary secret rules because it has been elected to govern. Thus, it can do what it wants how it wants to because the people gave Bush the “mandate” to do so.


  75. johnva says:

    @bifloman: The problem (beyond the serious ethical and civil rights issues) is that if racial profiling is actually used, terrorists will just find someone who doesn’t fit the “profile” to carry out their attacks.

  76. SinisterMatt says:


    That’s not to say that the administration’s logic is correct. I don’t think it is, as it leads to dangerous places.


  77. bifloman says:

    @captain_underpants: Of course not, all I am saying is most terrorist fit a certain profile. That’s what the TSA should be looking for, not some grandmother in a wheelchair. I drive between San Diego and Los Angeles all the time. Frequently, at the San Onforo check point, I get waved over to the secondary check because of who I am and the car I drive. I have nothing to hide so I don’t care that they profile me. Yes, it is an inconvenience but again, I have nothing to hide.

  78. johnva says:


    I disagree that security theater creates a feeling of calm for passengers. I believe it actually has the opposite effect, putting people on edge and making them testy, cranky, and fearful by stressing them and reminding them of the threat of terrorism. Fear, I might remind you, is how terrorists control people. So it’s at least plausible that security theater actually makes people more compliant when someone who claims authority tells them what to do (which is how the terrorists prevented the passengers on those planes from fighting back). And job creation is about the worst possible argument for the existence of any government bureaucracy.

    Once you allow arbitrary secret rules, then there is no such thing as the rule of law anymore. Because there is no way for you as a member of the public, or your lawyer, to verify the authority under which a government official is doing something. Thus, they can do whatever they want. It’s that serious. They may just be using these “secret laws” for transportation security now, but who is to say that they won’t decide some other reason is equal justification for secret laws in the future? That sort of thing is exactly indicative of how abusive authoritarian regimes rule over the day-to-day lives of their own citizens. They transfer the authority to do things over from a public law that we can all read to “do what I say, because I’m the government. Only I know the rules, so you have to do whatever I say”.

  79. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    You thought you were writing some satire, but…
    Maybe 15-20 years ago in rural England, a private bus company was getting constant complaints about its wretched, usually late service.
    A spokesman for the company told a British newspaper that the buses would be on time if they didn’t have to stop & pickup & let off passengers!

    During the Great Depression, sone of the most popular items were glass knives. I’m sure you can still find them in antique stores & the occasional garage sale. They will go through a metal detector unless they were made with a high lead content, but I don’t think Depression glass was made that way. And if packed correctly, they might even pass the X-ray.

  80. RStewie says:

    As prior military, I can say that having your leave taken by the airlines is one of the most frustrating things imaginable. People don’t understand the military leave policy. Civilians take leave and hour (sometimes less) at a time. The military makes you take WEEKEND DAYS if you are out of town.

    Visiting relatives?
    Civilian: Gone one week total, left Friday night after work, returned Sunday afternoon = 5 days.
    Military: Gone one week total, left Friday night after work, returned Sunday afternoon = 9 days (unless your supervisor makes you count that Friday…then it’s 10).

    Also, that leave time is your sick days, your vacation days, and any holiday you’re off that isn’t a Federal Holiday (like Christmas vacation).

  81. SadSam says:


    Sorry I can’t find the original article that I read on the issue of TSA using stress to trigger interactions with passengers. But here is an article on the TSA system being used which is called SPOT. [www.time.com]

  82. tcp100 says:

    Here’s a tip.

    Don’t ever ask for a “supervisor”!!

    The correct phrase is “Please let me speak to your superior.”

    Everybody may be a “supervisor” these days, but everybody also has a boss.

    Well, not everybody, but if you find yourself talking to someone that doesn’t, they’re either A) lying or B) they’ve got no excuse to pass the buck.

  83. floraposte says:

    @bifloman: You can always define terrorism in such a way as to include visually identifiable people, but it doesn’t have much to do with actually enacting policy that makes anybody safer.

    The five main domestic U.S. flights brought down by bombing have all been considered domestic work. Not much point in profiling in a way that would exclude the biggest historical source of domestic terrorism aloft.

  84. pigbearpug says:

    @Parapraxis: Word.

  85. Nick1693 says:

    Thank Ye George Carlin, who once said.
    Well. Watch this video.

  86. Nick1693 says:

    @Nick1693: Oops!

  87. “TSA, can you at least train your agents to do their jobs properly?”

    No. Because that would cost money.

  88. geneb5 says:

    We had a similar nasty and officious TSA supervisor at the Santa Rosa airport, who took 15 minutes ostentatiously going through my friend’s carry-on. It’s too tedious and trivial to go through the gory details, but suffice to say, even the other agents were embarrassed at his behavior towards this 68-year-old grandmother who posed such a dire threat. Their eye-rolling, snorts and tsks showed that they knew this guy well, and that this wasn’t his first grandstand. One apologized to me.

    Meanwhile, through all the nonsense and commotion, something truly dangerous could have been going on.

    And indeed, was.

    The next day, as she opened a package of accumulated gifts she’d hurriedly thrown into her carry-on, she said “Remember that jerk at Santa Rosa? Look what he let on the plane!”

    And held up her gift-packaged 8″ cook’s knife.

  89. Wubbytoes says:

    Man, after reading so many awful stories like this I never want to fly again.

  90. johnva says:

    @geneb5: I’ve also had TSA agents apologize to me for the terrible behavior of their colleagues; once one of them even whispered “she’s just a bitch” under his breath to me after his coworker put on a display of treating people like dirt. Which makes me wonder…if even their coworkers can tell how horrible some of the TSA agents are, why don’t those people get fired? Their attitude is actually a security threat in addition to being an unacceptable way to treat members of the public.

  91. shor0814 says:

    He didn’t volunteer for the voucher.

    “I asked to speak to a supervisor, [and was told] iit would be 30 minutes before he arrived. Foreseeing a possible “late arrival” and subsequent loss of seat, I asked the same NWA agent if the vouchers were still being offered”

    It wasn’t until the TSA and NWA employees held him up (each in their own special way) that he thought about the voucher. I don’t see anything where he planned on taking the voucher anyway.

  92. jimmydeweasel says:

    You wanted to clear the welfare roles. Well you got your wish. Workfare I believe it’s called. Wouldn’t it be easier to just pay these people to stay at home, breed, drink, do crack, weave their hair and leave us alone?

  93. Snowlovers says:

    That’s it – I’m never giving TSA anymore of my busin….


  94. ochobit says:

    I can believe this (Although we never know how the guy treated the Officer in the first place), supervisors that were hired at first were never officers so they don’t know the rules but still pretend they know everything.

    There are a lot of good officers, but their are too many bad apples that are never dealt with in that agency…

    Personally, I’m trying to do whatever I can to weed out TSOs that should have been fired years ago…

  95. lorenjfisher says:

    that’s what you get for not showing up at the airport 6 hours early for your flight

  96. n301dp says:

    First rule of problems with the TSA: Ask for a supervisor AND the airline’s Ground Security Coordinator (GSC).

  97. papahoth says:

    @SadSam: and SPOT is a good thing. Hardly what you are claiming. Do you really believe that if such a thing existed, this and other websites would not be up in arms about it?

  98. stinerman says:


    Really? I thought Indonesia had the largest Muslim population outside the Middle East. In fact, I believe it has the largest Muslim population in the world.

  99. TideGuy says:


    I never argued that TSA (or any security for that matter) has the ability to stop everything but tell me how the actions of TSA (in this case) “in all actuality does absolutely nothing to stem any threats whatsoever, and sometimes, makes it easier for threats to get by.”

    If I can name one threat that is stopped (and I have) then I have proven the statement false.

  100. 420greg says:

    If either candidate wants to win the Presidential election by a landslide, they need to publicly condemn the TSA and tell the people if elected it will be dismantled.

    Every person who has flown since 9/11 will vote for them. Regardless of political party.

  101. Darkwing_Duck says:

    @jimmydeweasel: You’re blunt but you have a point. If this is the alternative to complaining about the sense of entitlement and no working, then welfare it is

  102. vladthepaler says:

    Ridiculous that checking a firearm is supposed to enhance security or safety. The guy’s active in the military, and instead of trusting him with his gun, you want it checked, where it’s subject to theft by anyone who handles baggage, and then sent spinning around on one of those luggage carousels at the other end, where anyone at all can pick it up, take it home, and break the lock. Seriously, we’d all be better off if the soldier was allowed to keep his gun.

  103. jswilson64 says:

    @captain_underpants: I hate to be the one to point this out, but you do realize the 9-11 hijackers were all rather Arabic, don’t you? As were the 1993 World Trade Center bombers?

    How many little old white lady grannies have ever hijacked a plane?

  104. shufflemoomin says:

    It’s time some people realised that travelling isn’t always a hassle, and airport security isn’t always a pain in the ballsack. These things are almost always a hassle in the United States. It’s the only place I’ve travelled to where I’ve regretted going before I’ve stepped outside the airport and hated being at the airport. The airport is usually staffed by power-mad, jumped-up morons who’s only job is to make your few hours in the airport as miserable as possible. The people of the US need to realise what’s happening to their place. It used to be THE tourist destination to go full of wondrous natural beauty, sprawling metropolises and all you could want in one country, now I do all I can to avoid going there. Ever. All the great stuff is still in there, but the government want to make it as difficult to get to as possible. Last time I arrived in JFK I won’t even go into the forms I had to fill in for immigration and what happened when Delta flight crew had handed out whole flight the wrong paperwork. Still gives me shivers thinking about it…

  105. bobpence says:

    @shor0814, RStewie: Matt was confirmed for a 19:30 flight (six hours after his original flight) and could have taken it, losing six hours and, Detroit to Austin, getting home at a lousy hour. For that 6-hour delay blame the TSO, the airline, or both, fine.

    But it was only when he sought and received a voucher in relation to the LATER flight — VOLUNTEERED to be bumped — that he “lost” a day. For that he already received a voucher and a hotel night, as it should be. His complaint is about missing the 13:30 flight, so I again argue that the “leave” day issue is a red herring.

  106. sljepi says:

    You are active military and those TSA garbage rats have the guts to talk to you like that? I would write to your congressman/congresswoman and raise hell to high heavens. I would get someone fired over this snafu – nobody has the right to treat our Gi’s in this manner! Shame on you TSA!

  107. wee0x1B says:

    @thebluepill: You can’t mail firearms unless you have an FFL holder on both ends of the journey. Most FFL dealers will charge a fee for the service, since they have to record it in their logs and such.

    But this wasn’t exactly a newflash that the TSA drones are power-hungry retards. I thought that was widely obvious…

    • emrichar says:

      @wee0x1B: Perhaps the USPS does not allow this per their regs, but I know from personal experience that shipping a gun via FedEx is no big deal. Perhaps your state or local laws are more restrictive (e.g. the Peoples Republic of California)?

  108. ivanthemute says:

    I was on TDY to the Pentagon back in ’06, and on my return to my squadron I was assigned as a ‘courier’ for some sensitive materials. Over by blue shirt, but under my service-dress coat I was wearing a locked wire mesh frame, had a steel braided cable down my sleeve attached to a briefcase with four marked seals on it. The 18 year old TSA weenie wanted to open a case full of classified documents to see what was in it. Fortunately her supervisor came over and walked me through to the gate (he was retired Army and knew the procedure.)

    TSA=Thousands standing around and/or Terrorism Support Agency

  109. NeroRagnarok says:

    In my opinion, although the TSA officer did not correctly perform her function, the fault does not seem, at least in whole her fault at all. I think it’s just easy for people to blame TSA for issues like this but it doesn’t seem appropriate in this case. The flier knew the regulations prior to flying: hardcase and lock. He showed up with no lock. If there had been an appropriate lock on the bag upon check-in there would’ve been no problems, except for any given by the NWA. In fact, the TSA supervisor that eventually was able to help the flier went above and beyond in the situation, yet nobody seems to recognize that fact. From what I’m reading, apparently NWA really gave him a hard time compared to TSA.

    People complain non-stop about the TSA, but think about this: If there were two planes going to your destination, one of which all passengers and items were screened, even with TSA’s level of security, and the other was flying with absolutely no security, which one would you board with your family? I’d hope most people would choose the screened plane, but I guess people are rightful to choose their own destiny. TSA provides avenues for fliers to complain and provide critism; the TSA blog. It’s an effective means of communicating with a team that speaks directly with supervisors of indivual airports and employees.


    Be the filmmaker you always wanted to be—learn how to burn a DVD with Windows®.

  110. 420greg says:


    I was getting jacked up by some immigrant TSA guy and told him:

    You may think that badge your wearing is supposed to get your respect, But I was in the military for 8 years and served in 2 wars, unlike your “appointed respect” I earned mine.

    What a loser.

  111. Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

    Close friend of the family was flying home on leave around Christmas last year. Someone told him the flight was full, and after a cursory check of his ring finger as well as taking in his age, said “well at least you don’t have to worry about a family to go home to.”

    Said friend simply said, very quietly. “I’m the only son of three going home this Christmas.” The person raised an eyebrow and replied that it wasn’t their fault the others couldn’t get there.

    “I don’t think you understand,” He continued, “My other two brothers are dead.” Three people immediately offered to fly the next day to get him home.

  112. mrearly2 says:

    “Active-duty military”? He should have had his firearm at his side, and no questions asked.
    This is just another story of Big Brother’s overbearing attitude toward the little people.
    Of course, if the military were actually fighting “for our freedoms”, they might be treated better; since they’re cannon fodder for corporate fascists, they don’t count for much (no pay for you, but here’s a medal!).