The Culture that is TSA

An insider’s view, passed along without comment:

[S]ince most TSA supervisors are too daft to actually supervise, bending the rules is easy to do.

Did you know you don’t need a high-school diploma or GED to work as a security screener? These are the same screeners that TSA chief John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refer to as a first-class first line of defense in the war on terror.

These are the employees who could never keep a job in the private sector. I wouldn’t trust them to walk my dog.

… Most TSA screeners know their job is a complete joke. Their goal is to use this as a stepping stone to another government agency.

… Supervisors play absolutely no role in day-to-day functions except to tell you not to chew gum. Gum chewing is a huge issue with management. I once saw a supervisor make an officer open his mouth to prove he had a mint and not a piece of gum.

Goofing off and half-hour-long bathroom breaks are the only way to break up the monotony. There is also a lot of ogling of female passengers by the male screeners. So, ladies, cover up when you get to the airport. These guys are checking you out constantly.

… The rest are only there for the paycheck and generous benefits. Screeners start at $15 per hour, and there is tons of overtime — mainly because they are filling in for the many screeners who don’t bother coming to work. For every 40 hours you work, you receive four hours of vacation and four hours of sick time.

One screener didn’t come to work for four weeks. When he finally reappeared, he asked for another week off. The answer was no. So what did this brainiac decide to do? He took another week off — and didn’t get terminated.

People have been caught falling asleep on the job. They get written up, it’s put in their file, and that’s it.

New hires see how bad it is working there, and, believe it or not, TSA does manage to hire some pretty decent people. They just don’t last because they can get a normal job.

It’s the people who’ve been there a good number of years who could never find employment elsewhere. When you have a real job, it usually means you have to actually work and think, which a lot of them have a hard time doing.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yea, the NY Post found a disgruntled screener who agreed to anonymously write an article about how much of a joke TSA is. Lets all rage and revel in these revelations of a mismanaged government agency! *rolleyes*

  2. While I’m sure not a revelation to anyone who is even slightly informed, it’s still nice to read anything that resembles common sense these days 🙂

  3. I worked for the TSA. Its all true. My supervisor was a message therapist. The sups dont work just hang out. Its a joke, no customer service. TSA = thousand standing around

  4. Oh, a bunch of blather written by a disgruntled employee who thinks he can classify thousands of employees in hundreds of locations based on his limited experience. “Daft” “delusional zealots”, perverts, “wouldn’t trust them to walk my dog.” Clearly an unbiased, objective view. No bitterness whatsoever.

    Excellent source, there. What’s your next post going to be-why I’m the best uncle ever, written by your five-year-old nephew?

  5. Hmmm, he’s dead wrong about vacation and sick time though. They get 4 hours AL and SL for every 80 hours worked, not 40. Something that wrong makes me wonder if he actually worked there

  6. US security is a joke that isn’t funny. The only thing actually preventing an attack is really good intelligence – not the “airport security”.

    profiling saves lives. Start there.

  7. @TK – I’m surprised your supervisor gave up a promising career in message therapy to work at the TSA. I know for a fact that with the advent of Twitter and Facebook a lot of conventional e-mail messages have been seeking therapy for feelings of inadequacy.

    Either he/she was a terrible therapist to begin with, and didn’t understand anything about messaging or they truly have a passion for the work of a TSA supervisor. I like to think that the latter is true, and that many of the individuals we encounter in the airport security screening process are motivated and passionate about their jobs.

  8. @Jay, that sounds a lot more reasonable. 5 weeks vacation and 5 weeks sick time sounded pretty outrageous.

  9. @ Steve – I’ve experienced some fairly through massages when opting out at check points.

    Fortunately, I’ve never experienced a passionate one there.

  10. Addendum – at least I didn’t snarkily point the spellings of “message” for “massage,” since I demonstrated my inability to type “thorough” in my post.

  11. I was working at ATL when TSA started ramping up their hiring and they almost cleaned out the food court and janitorial staff because they already had clearance for the airport.

  12. My uncle works for the TSA at SFO after he was laid off after a 25 year career as a draftsman. I wouldn’t qualify him as lazy or incompetent. Being admittedly biased, I suppose it must be all his colleagues that are idiots. I don’t like the TSA either, but wouldn’t smear all the employees who work there…

  13. The TSA actively tries to dissuade passengers and others from filing formal complaints, no less so when the TSA is in violation of formal TSA policy as officially approved.

    The organization and its employees are out of control and the airports have become a situation of the lunatics running the asylum the lunatics created. Passengers are the victims of the TSA dog and pony show.

  14. “The TSA actively tries to dissuade passengers and others from filing formal complaints”

    So like every organization ever in the history of the world?

  15. This letter has accurately described the attitudes and competencies of front line employees in any large organization from the eyes of somebody who believes he or she should be promoted. I write letters like this at every company I work for!!

    Of course I would do a better job of managing… It’s just that nobody knows it but me!

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