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May 7 2016

TSA Takes a Special Tip: Hey, We Thought Tip Meant "To Insure Prompt Service"

Patrice J. Lee

If you’ve ever found yourself racing to catch your flight with your shoes, belt, coat, and luggage in hand after being held up by long security lines, it’s quite possible you left something else of value behind such as a cell phone, laptop, or cash.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will gladly collect your belongings especially the cash and while you may be able to reclaim your laptop, the cash is likely gone – especially if it’s coinage.

Congress has enabled the TSA to collect and keep cash that people leave behind accidentally. Agents aren’t supposed to pocket the cash, but who knows? They are supposed to turn it in for the TSA financial office to be counted and be deposited into an account.

Last year, Americans left behind a whopping $765,759.15 – over $100,000 more than 2014 levels. The increases over the past year is noticeable and no doubt due to the scenario I laid out.

If you don’t fly regularly, you may not know, but security lines and wait times are stretching longer especially during peak travel times and there’s no relief in sight. Travelers face massive security lines across the country, prompting airlines to warn passengers that they should arrive at least two hours early.

The TSA cut its airport screener staff by 10 percent over the past few years on the theory that its PreCheck system would make the process easier, but PreCheck hasn't proven as popular as expected.  Instead, passengers are crammed into long regular security lines while the PreCheck line goes virtually unused.

Once through security, scores of passengers make a mad dash to catch their flights leaving, valuables behind. According to American Airlines, slower security lines forced 6,800 passengers to miss and have to rebook flights in a single-week period in mid-March.

If you don’t want TSA to get your spare coinage, in some places you can donate it:

Passengers not interested in leaving an unintentional tip for the TSA can drop loose coins in pre-security collection boxes at Denver International, Phoenix Sky Harbor International and several other airports and have the money donated to a local non-profit.

Phoenix Sky Harbor installed spare change kiosks just before the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2015 and collected $11,833.37 to help with the operation of the airport USO that year. So far in 2016 (January and February) $1,715.50 has been donated.

Denver International Airport began its collection box program in 2013 and announced yesterday that, since the inception of the program, more than a quarter of a million dollars in spare change — $282,722 — has been donated by passengers to support Denver’s Road Home, a city program that provides services for the homeless.

The big lesson here is not really about the rise in lost coinage, but TSA’s miscalculation with staffing following the implementation of TSA PreCheck. Innovation is a good thing, but, if a plan doesn't so off as planned, private sector operators are more likely to make adjustments quickly.

Instead of being able to solve a problem quickly, TSA gets a special tip in the form of left-behind money!

Last year, the TSA’s failure to identify explosives in 95 percent of undercover tests exposed how inept they are when it comes to doing anything other than lording it over passengers. 

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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