TSA, Can You Spare a Dime?


I might as well begin with a joke from my tax accountant:  The trick is to stop thinking of it as ‘your’ money. Now the meat:  More than a half-million bucks, mostly in change, was left at airport security checkpoints in the USA last year.

I’m wondering if any FlyerTalk members have seen the inside of a TSA locker room. By chance was there a large Coinstar change machine next to the coffeepot?

The dollars in left-behind change was reported by Gannett news, the parent company of USA Today. (Gannett reporters write their way up to the mother ship, USA Today. I guess spare-change stories are one way of getting there. Or not.)

Miami and Las Vegas airports are high rollers, raking in about $22,000 each from those silver-lined trays next to the conveyer belts. Chicago’s O’Hare was in that ballpark, too. That’s about $60 a day. (A Dupont Circle panhandler in Washington, D.C., once told me he collects about $150 a day, but he had to really dress down to get it.)

Atlanta, the busiest airport in the world, was way down in ninth place. (What’s with that, Brian Cohen? Isn’t that your home base over at The Gate? Anyone spotted a Coinstar in Brian’s office?)

If you’ve left money at a security checkpoint and want it back, you have 60 days to make a claim.

What to do with the money is becoming an issue. The 2012 haul of $531,392.22 is an increase of 9 percent from 2011, which was an increase of 30 percent from 2010. The past three years combined amounted to $1.43 million.

Congress dictates the recovered money should be spent on “civil aviation security.” As of last month, the TSA dropped about $6,400 on translating checkpoint signage into non-English. (“Yo, agent Vladimir, how do you write ‘Leave Change Here’ in Russian?”)

Now a Florida congressman wants to donate the money to the United Service Organizations. Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and whose constituents include a lot of members of the military living on the Panhandle (!), thinks the money should go to “help airport programs that support the military.”

Listen up U.S. Congress. The Tarmac is backing Rep. Miller. Get it done. Get it all done.


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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • gum at 12:36pm April 22, 2013

    I am convinced that this is a great idea! You can find more information about the activity of uso within their annual report or on their website.


    A vast array of activities supporting the troops, active military and veterans is carried out.

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