90,000+ reasons to eye your bag 100% at the airport

Tons of stuff is lost or left behind at checkpoints every month

NBC Universal, Inc.

Ken Morris and his wife just moved to Los Gatos from Chicago. And their move opened our eyes to a travel tip for everyone.

“We downsized tremendously,” he said. ”And had next to nothing to really move.”   

Still, they had enough stuff to stuff one of those shipping cubes. But, as soon as Ken sent his cube west from Illinois to California, he had a realization.

“I turned around … 'ooh! I forgot to pack the router.'” His home internet router, that is. No worry, though. Ken and his wife were booked to fly to San Francisco. And he still had room in his carryon bag. 

But when he got to California, Ken unpacked a mystery. The internet router was missing. 

Ken says the only time his bag was out of his control was at the TSA checkpoint at Chicago O’Hare airport. “It was flagged,” he said. Ken explained that an agent searched his suitcase, but never said anything about confiscating his router. 

“I was told it was all good,” he said. “Maybe someone forgot to put it back.”

TSA security checkpoints are a bit of a black hole. The TSA says “approximately 90,000 to 100,000 items are left behind at checkpoints each month.” The agency says it holds items for 30 days. After that, it sells them. The proceeds pay down a tiny bit of the huge national debt.

Ken contacted the TSA. Lo and behold, it found his router in its lost and found department.

TSA would give it back, but there was a hitch. Ken recalled the TSA saying, “come and get it within 30 days, or it will be disposed of.” 

That’s “come and get it” in Chicago. 

So, he’d have to spend what’s typically $350 on a roundtrip flight, according to Google, to pick up a $100 router. “I think they didn’t realize the flight from Chicago to here was kinda permanent,” he said. 

Ken believed the TSA botched the search, so the TSA was responsible for shipping his router back to him. But the TSA expected him to pay for shipping. So, Ken contacted us. And our team contacted the TSA. It took action. 

“I got an email from some person at TSA administration or something, saying ‘please verify your address,’” he said. The TSA then shipped Ken his router, at no cost to him. He thanked the NBC Bay Area Responds team.

“You guys are good,” he said.  

NBC Bay Area asked the TSA for a statement about what happened but did not receive one. The rep did say, “the most important thing when something is missing is to immediately report it to TSA so we can look at CCTV to determine what happened.”

Ken did that. 

He has a word of advice for all air travelers. If a TSA agent searches your bag, keep your eyes on it -- before you put your shoes and belt back on. 

“Put your clothes on later,” he said. “Stand by as close as you can and watch. and see what they’re doing.” 

If you can’t see what a TSA agent is doing the whole time, ask them: “What did you take out?” Then, verify that stuff’s back in your bag. Spend a few seconds then to save yourself lots of time and possible heartache later. 

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