TSA Calls it 'Voluntarily Abandoned Property'

April 5, 2013 - 3:12 PM

It's almost a cruel play on words.

You go to the airport and bring that which you know you'll need for the trip. Transportation Security Administration employees rifle though your bags and find that bottle of shampoo that was a little too big or the can of deodorant that had a few too many ounces. They tell you that certain items in your possession cannot be taken on board the flight and you have to leave them behind.

The name they have for those goods is a hoot: "Voluntarily Abandoned Property."

I am a simple man and believe words mean things.

When the TSA tells you to leave something you own behind or you can't get on the plane, that's not exactly "voluntary" in my book. Kind of sounds like blackmail, but that's just me. When I'm told if I don't leave it, I can't get on the plane, I wouldn't consider myself "abandoning" that item because you usually abandon something you don't want.

It was my "property" but after I "voluntarily abandon" it, where exactly does it go? Well, according to TSA Management Directive No. 200.52,

"VAP deposited in collection bins shall not be recovered by, and will not be returned to, passengers. Upon voluntary abandonment of the prohibited item, the item immediately becomes the property of the Federal Government."

Why am I not surprised? It's voluntarily abandoned by us and instead of going into the trash, we've really donated it to the government, and some winds up with the states who sell it. From there, things seem really organized:

"PCs shall maintain all high-dollar property (equal to or greater than (≥) $500, excluding HAZMAT) in a secure location until OPM directs its disposition."

From that secure location, goods eventually wind up being "managed" and/or disposed of. And even though ABC News stung TSA employees stealing goods and even has a list of the "Top 20 Airports for TSA Theft", I would hope that Property Custodians weren't taking first-dibs on items before their being considered VAP.

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