Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Government Stole My Laptop

Seriously, it did.

I think it comes down to karma. On Thursday morning things were going too well. We managed to get our Jersey house closed up and get to the airport on time. We were first in line at Budget, at the Delta check-in, and even at security. We made our connection in Detroit, one step ahead of another snowstorm. Our three-year-old slept for most of the flight to Tokyo. We kept joking about how whenever things go too well, how we somehow get punished later. We thought our penance was the 30 extra minutes of Tokyo traffic on the drive back to our house. We were wrong.

It wasn't until I unpacked that we discovered how the universe was going to balance things out. Instead of finding my laptop in my bag, I found a slip notifying me that TSA had inspected the suitcase. The emotional impact of finding that little slip of paper was just as horrible as it would have been if the guy who "inspected" my laptop had just enclosed a picture of his ass with the words KISS THIS written on it. I'm quickly learning that this is the basic message I'll be receiving from both Delta and TSA as I pursue this.

It took about two minutes of Googling to learn that theft from checked baggage is pretty much business as usual. Any article written on the topic has about a hundred comments from people who have had their luggage raided. The general message from all airlines is that they basically don't give a shit. However, while baggage handlers have been caught stealing, they generally have to be in cahoots for this to happen. They don't have a lot of time alone with the bags, so everyone present has to be either silent or in the stealing. On the other hand, TSA employees have lots of time alone with your bags and absolutely no accountability. They open any bag they please, and are not searched when they leave the airport. The official word on the topic is that it isn't cost effective to take measures to prevent theft or to pursue it when it happens. The consensus amongst the online community of victims and former airline employees is that TSA employees basiclly have permission to take whatever they want from your bags. Comforting, isn't it?

So, I spent this morning making international calls. The Philadelphia Police Department was incredibly friendly and helpful. I don't know if that matters, but I always feel better talking to people who are nice to me. It makes me feel like they're really considering helping me. When people are rude, all I can think is you aren't even writing this down, are you?

Now, I get to deal with Delta and give them the chance to tell me to kiss it. I e-mailed them a friendly note, but I don't expect a response. The company line is that you are supposed to notify the airline of "lost" articles immediately, which means before you leave the airport. When was the last time anyone checked the contents of their bag before leaving the airport? Next, I can download a lost article form and fax it to TSA, who will respond in 3 weeks. They will come up with some variation on the whole kissing/ass/biting/butt line. They will tell me it's my fault that their employees steal.

The good news is that before we left, I e-mailed the rough draft of my novel to myself. Also, I have Lojack, so the first time the thief tries to get online with my computer, the tracking device will activate. I also heard a rumor that my homeowners insurance will help me out.

But it's really not about that. Tell me all day that I shouldn't have put something valuable in my checked luggage, but that's really blaming the victim. The really tragedy here is that we are living in a society where are are told that we should expect and tolerate institutionalized theft by government employees. Even worse, by government employees who have the word SECURITY in their job title. If any other employee at any other company incorporates petty theft into their daily operations, there are consequences. However, airports seem to have created an environment where your personal items can be taken at will and it's pretty much business as usual. How is this possible?

It is true that the United States government did not steal my laptop. However, these are government employees. Type something like TSA steal checked baggage in a Google search. There are many documented cases of these agents being caught red-handed. If an organization knows that the working conditions as they exist are conducive to criminal activity, and they do nothing to correct the situation, don't they share in the accountability? This is an organization that I count on to keep my children safe. So far, they have done this. However, I'd like my computer back, as well.


  1. So sorry about your laptop. I've had things stolen, too, but nothing that valuable. Of course, now that you've written a blog criticizing TSA agents, don't be surprised if your name crops up on a no-fly list, or you get red-flagged next time you travel! you subversive, you...
    your old friend, cw from cr. ;-)

  2. I certainly hope they have more important things to do than punish someone who's upset about being robbed- like finding my computer. That would be a good use of their time.


9 AM

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