TSA Collects Nearly $500,000 In Abandoned Change Per Year And Has No Idea What To Do With It

from the the-unofficial-National-Tip-Jar dept

The TSA undoubtedly has several problems, chief among them being charged with providing an expensive, interactive theater program aimed at putting travelers' minds at ease while simultaneously putting their nether regions through a rigorous groping regimen. The exposure of documents stating its all-important job isn't actually that important certainly doesn't help. As it stands now, the TSA is just another government institution, destined to be funded in perpetuity, even as its relevance continues to erode.

One problem it shouldn't have but does is how to deal with a vast accumulation of pocket change left behind by the nation's travelers.

Last year, the Transportation Security Administration collected $531,395.22 in change left behind at checkpoints.

Federal law requires the TSA to report the amount of unclaimed money they keep every year to Congress. The fiscal 2012 report, obtained by The Washington Post, shows the agency collected about $499,000 in U.S. currency, and another $32,000 in foreign currency, at their checkpoints.
While this amount is literally small change compared to the agency's ~$8 billion annual budget, it's still too significant an amount to ignore. This unclaimed change is earmarked for "civil aviation security" -- you know, the main thing that the TSA does. The agency is supposed to put the money back into the company, so to speak. But, if the following figure is accurate, it would appear the agency is operating at peak (in)efficiency.
[T]he TSA has only spent about $6,500 of the money it collected last year.
Well, if the agency can't use it, maybe it could pass it on to those who could.
On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 1095, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), which would require the TSA to fork that cash over to nonprofit organizations that provide travel-related assistance to military personnel or their families.
Good idea, one would think. But that would be before hearing how expensive giving money away can be when the TSA handles the job.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated [pdf] that collecting, accounting for and transferring the money to the USO would cost $1.2 million — $700,000 more than the actual amount collected.
The CBO's two-page estimate is woefully light on details on how it arrived at its $1.2 million figure. It just sort of claims the costs will exceed $1 million, extrapolates this income/expenditure over a decade and states the whole thing will be a wash, even if the TSA's spending steadily declines. To sum up: nothing ventured, nothing lost.

It seems there would be a very inexpensive way to route this money to charity. First off, each airport's security team could designate a charity to route the funds to. Then… nothing. The TSA simply collects the change as usual and dumps it into the proper receptacle. The designated charity could pick this up quarterly (unintentional pun), count it themselves and turn over a receipt for record keeping to the TSA -- all on their own dime (slightly less unintentional pun). Total cost to the TSA: nothing more than the hourly wage it already pays to have someone scoop up and store abandoned change.

End result? PR wins all around (especially if local charities are used) and the agency won't be spending money to reroute money. In fact, donation boxes for the selected charity could be set up right past the scanners, allowing people to toss the change in themselves and restore a little faith in humanity after a trip through the TSA's dehumanizing theatrical production.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 1:03pm

    Well...

    If they don't want it, I'll take about 30 K of that myself. Gotta pay off my student loans, ya know.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 1:48pm

    How about they pay it all to the US treasury to give out and pay off bills/national debt?

     

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  3.  
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    MondoGordo (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 1:56pm

    Damn it Tim !!

    Stop making cents!!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    Endorsing a charity would amount to government endorsement of speech, which is not good.

    Likewise, just putting the money in a donation jar uncounted would leave agents free to run off with it, thus creating incentive for them to help people forget their change (and wallet).

    The obvious solution is to have TSA agents do their jobs naked and run them through metal detectors when they enter or leave the workplace so that we can be sure no change is pilfered. And to prevent any speech improprieties the collected metals should be melted down and returned to the US Mint.

    In light of this clear an reasonable solution it's also quite clear why dealing with left-behind change is such an expensive proposition.

     

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  5.  
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    OldGeezer (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 2:19pm

    ObamaCare

    Only the government could waste 700 grand to give away a half million. And this is who we are to trust to bring the cost of health insurance down? I guess that means every $500 given to benefit low income families will cost taxpayers at least $1,200.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 2:32pm

    how much does it take to say 'there are plenty of charities as well as homeless people that would welcome even enough for a meal. better still, start up some soup kitchens or hostels. they would be well populated, given the state of the economy and the shit pit the government has put all the ordinary people in! try using some fucking imagination and sense!

     

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  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

    Obvious solution is for Techdirt to NOT worry about this,

    and instead propose ways to get rid of TSA security theater. This is sheer distraction, waste of time all round. Even if the minion had the perfect solution for this trivial problem, then wouldn't affect what's called "the TSA's dehumanizing theatrical production".

    Growing anger and violence among the 99% is mostly due to deliberate actions of the 1% to dumb-down, impoverish, harass, divide, and conquer. Here's a typically lousy article that merely puzzles:
    http://www.myfoxny.com/story/24039954/americas-anger-epidemic-why

    10:34:26[l-157-8] [ This suppresses the kids from fraud of using my screen name. ]

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 2:53pm

    Just sayin'

    The best use of the money would be to start a fund for the treatment of victims of sexual harassment.

     

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  9.  
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    Richard Sparrow, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 3:38pm

    I just remembered...

    I left about 400K in change in a bunch of airports over the last year... where do I go to pick it up?

     

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  10.  
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    TimK (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 4:00pm

    Having the pleasure of traveling by air last week, I of course opted out of being scanned and enjoyed a not-so-thorough pat down.

    I'm a little torn by the whole thing. On one hand, I truly appreciate that the TSA officer didn't come within 6 inches of my junk... on the other hand, it just shows how pointless the whole pat down process is if they aren't even bothering to check the most obvious and most ideal hiding place.

    Sure, he made certain I didn't have any razor blades taped inside the neck of my T-shirt or to the bottom of my feet.... but I could've had 2 hand grenades and a bottle of lighter fluid in my crotch and he'd never know.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 4:02pm

    Where'd the money go before TSA?

    We've always had to empty the change out of our pockets before going through metal detectors. Before TSA, it wasn't just travelers going to the gates. So even more people were emptying their pockets back then. Did the airport keep the money back then? Maybe that's where the money ought to go.

    (Maybe, since the checkpoints were simpler, less people were flustered enough to leave their change behind.)

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 5:40pm

    On my nest flight I am going to report 80 thousand in missing change.


    304,000 QUARTERS
    33,750 DIMES
    12,480 NICKELS
    100 PENNIES

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 8:20pm

    out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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  14.  
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    Rekrul, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 11:43pm

    This sounds like one of those contests where you need to pay $30 in processing fees to get your "free" $20 toaster.

     

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  15.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Dec 7th, 2013 @ 12:53am

    nearly $500k reported ? ? ?

    ...that means they found about 4-5 million, and *reported* $500k...

     

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  16.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Dec 7th, 2013 @ 12:55am

    Re: Where'd the money go before TSA?

    The money was used as it was supposed too, I guess. The problem is that TSA has already managed to convince Congress that they should have all the money, so they just can't find anywhere to actually spend it anymore.

     

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  17.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Dec 7th, 2013 @ 12:57am

    Not quite correct.

    "[...] aimed at putting travelers' minds at ease [...]"

    No Tim, it's aimed at reminding travelers that there are Bad People out there that will Kill You if you don't let the government do whatever they want, For Your Safety. And also Think Of The Children (unless an agent is groping said children at the time, then you should think about The Flag for a couple of minutes).

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    They will donate it to Hollywood.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2013 @ 4:33pm

    This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

    Abraham Lincoln
    First Inaugural Address
    Monday, March 4, 1861

    By U.S. government standards today, you would most likely find this guy on a terrorist watch list.

     

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  20.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 8th, 2013 @ 5:26pm

    Re:

    Yeah, pretty much every single founding father of the US would be considered high priority targets and suspected terrorists by the NSA and the rest of the government these days, which I'd say says a whole lot more about the current government than it does regarding the FF's.

     

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  21.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 8th, 2013 @ 5:29pm

    Here's an idea:

    Use the money to pay for lawyers and court fees incurred by those suing the TSA over their actions.

    (To clarify, the money pays for the costs the one suing the TSA would otherwise have to pay, not pays the TSA's lawyers and court costs)

     

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  22.  
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    Ninja (profile), Dec 9th, 2013 @ 1:38am

    Re: Damn it Tim !!

    Considering Mike works his arse off for virtually not even a penny I'd say he's making his cents wonderfully. I say we should put a donation jar for TD slaves.. Er, writers.

    My 2 cents ;D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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