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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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When 16 TSA People Are Too Many

Comments (18)

Tuesday afternoon I went through the Terminal C entrance at San Jose Airport.  I got to spend five minutes with 16 of my friends from the TSA.  16?  There was no line (there never is at San Jose Terminal C), two machines in operation (I’ve never seen more than two in action), and 16 people in TSA outfits mulling around.  My TSA greeter barely spoke English – I had to ask him what he was saying (he wasn’t really saying anything, just mumbled at me about a laptop or something).  I took off my jacket, shoes, emptied my pockets, took out my laptop, put my drink in the basket, and made sure I held on to my board pass (which was just checked by airport security 30 yards earlier).

As I walked through the x-ray machine, I looked around and noticed 12 of the 16 TSA dudes just hanging around. The post x-ray greeter looked at my boarding pass again and scribbled on it.  Two of the 12 people doing nothing were talking to each other about whether or not you are supposed to cut a pita pocket in half (huh? – seriously – this conversation continued as I put my shoes back on and managed to last at least two minutes).  One of the nothing-to-do-TSA-people was on what was clearly a personal phone call next to a sign that said “heightened threat level.”  Two other nothing-to-do-TSA-people were playing some sort of slap hands game with each other and laughing hysterically.

Even FDR – the great TVA master – would have been bummed out by the behavior of these TSA folks.  I definitely felt like I was only getting 12.5 cents on my tax payer dollar today (Amy just told me that my tax dollar actually goes to pay interest on the debt).  Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?

  • Jonathan Weber

    Brad, I totally agree, and you should see the TSA in small airports in rural “pork” states. As noted in our story about the Missoula airport scandal (www.newwest,net/missoula), last time I flew out I was the *only* passenger in site and there were 10 TSA folks to vet me.

  • http://www.burningdoor.com/eric Eric Lunt

    homeland% echo “Brad Feld” >> noflylist.txt

  • http://www.outstart.com Alan Warms

    My favorite TSA story is when I was flying from Boston to Chicago. I had accidentally been handed the wrong boarding pass by the ticket agent, but this wasn’t discovered until after I went through the X-ray line and the TSA agent on the other side read my boarding pass. The TSA agent at the front of the line who checks your id and boarding pass before you go through security evidently couldn’t read (but she faked it pretty well). When I tried to tell some folks what happened I got shrugs, and unfortunately had to catch a plane. S c a r y

  • jeff

    and if you look at one of these Napoleons the wrong way, well then you are in for the full treatment.

    Another thing I just learned is that SFO is using private contractors for manning the security stations… I thought we tried that and it didn’t work.
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,118042,00.html

  • Ryan

    I counted 12 at 7am on a Sunday at the Montrose Colorado. There was a TSA agent for every 1.5 passengers in the entire airport.

  • http://www.terrygold.com Terry Gold

    My comment is about to turn into a blog post of my own when I get some time. This TSA thing is driving me nuts. If I thought we were more secure, I’d be OK with it, but I feel like it is all for show to make it look like we’re safer, when in fact we are probably less safe.

  • http://bigben.blogs.com Ben Casnocha

    It sounds like this government agency needs a comprehensive, affordable, and easy-to-use customer request management system to route and track complaints like yours and provide managers a quick look at where the bottlenecks are.

    Since the other comments tell TSA war stories; after 9/11 and before I had a CA driver’s license I was using my school ID card. Dressed in a suit, at 5:00 AM on a weekday (I was “sick”) not one TSA person believed I was the person on my school ID. I had to pull out an English paper I wrote that i had in my bag with my name on it to convince them. Everyone else in line behind me wanted to kill me for holding them up but you gotta do what you gotta do.

  • http://www.firstround.com Josh Kopelman

    TSA – Thousands Standing Around

    http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=5809

  • http://www.jaredpolis.org Jared Polis

    We ought to use the military for airport security like most other countries do. I worry about the TSA handling anything more major than convincing my grandmother to remove her shoes.

  • http://mimiran.blogspot.com Reuben Swartz

    That explains why there are no TSA people and a huge line when everyone is trying to leave Terminal A at 5pm. ;-)

  • http://nickgray.net/ Nick Gray

    Fact: If one works over-time shifts every day (possible in airports like ATL), a TSA employee can make upwards of $70,000 per year.

    • Crystal Walker

      I worked in ATL and worked over time OFTEN but never made $70,000.

  • ESH

    Aw, lighten up you guys! They are working hard. Obviously you don’t understand what pressures these employees are under, in addition, you probably don’t realize that there are peaks and valleys as far as air traffic goes… you’re probably traveling during the valleys. They need to remain fully staffed for the peaks. They’ve tried really hard to have enough staffing so that you, the passenger, don’t have to wait very long to be screened. In addition, you may think some of the rules are silly (like shoes) but there is a deep level of intelligence behind every procedure.

    Your screeners put in a lot of hours (and no screener I ever knew could make 70k per year with overtime, not even with the highest rate of locality adjustments). If they are working that much overtime, well, they aren’t having a personal life. Trust me, unless you’re unemployed, you’re likely making a lot more than your screeners.

    It’s also a high-risk job. 1 out of 5 gets injured on the job for various reasons (mostly the equipment used and size/weight of the bags you pack). They are treated like dirt by management and the hours are rough (try working 12 hour shifts starting at 3am, every weekend and holiday and oftentimes with forced overtime – that isn’t worth the 1.5 pay for the exhaustion).

    So next time you judge someone, walk in their shoes or at least do your research.

  • Ex-TSA employee

    Huzzah to you and your comment. As someone who worked there since day one and worked my way up the ladder… I can testify to this. Yes, it does look like we have a bunch of people standing around doing nothing. Yes it does seem like the procedure we make the traveling public can seem redundent or even silly. Yes, Terminal A has lines that do not seem to end, while Terminal C barely sees a line at all, except for our early in the morning peaks there. And most Definetly, there are times when some screener are having conversations that might seem inrrelevant to the security process, however…

    The TSA screeners you speak to every day are not the ones that make the rules and procedures,
    They are not the ones who make the schedule.
    They barely have any say on what days off they have or which shift to work, unless they are one of the few fortunate to be at the top of the seniority list.
    They are federal employees that are given strict rules and regulation they must follow, including what they can and can not say to the passenger and how. I simpithize with the passenger and try to make them feel more confortable with the process, but as one who has had to deal with irrate passengers who arrive 5 minutes before the plane is suppose to take off and feel they have the right for us to be thier excape goat (which btw the plane will close it’s doors 10 minutes prior to departure time so they can be ready to TAKE OFF at the departure time)I have to stand up for my fellow employees. Anytime that I see a screener treating or answering a passenger in a rude manner or in a way that does not comply with TSA rules and regulation, I am the first to correct them.

    So as ESh said… unless you do research, dont be so quick to judge. I doubt a single person who was so quick to critize us even took the opportunity to step up to the platter and serve their country when they were so desparately seeking sceeners… As a matter of fact, SJC has part-time openings as we speak. Let me see you do the job we do, for the pay we get and the lack of appreciation.

    Of and by the way…. as far as Terminal A goes… it has nothing to do with staffing. It is the horrible layout of the Airport. It is the same effect when you take a 6 lane freeway and narrow it down to two lanes… traffic jams happen. so until the Airport demolishs Terminal A and reconstruct the new Airport, we will ALWAYS have lines at Terminal A. That is why they tell you to arrive one to two hours before your flight.

  • Current TSA

    Contrary to what people believe some people are paid to just stand around but they are doing a job!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/BetterTrading Chris Beanie
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