TSA lost my hat — how do I get it back?

Bill Marcolongo lost his hat when he was flying from Philadelphia to Anchorage last year. Or, more to the point, he thinks the TSA lost it.

“It is my belief that my luggage was opened during the trip to Anchorage,” he says. “I think the hat fell out of my luggage and was not returned.”

The hat has special meaning to Marcolongo. “It was one of those floppy brim jobs — a present from my sister when she visited The Grand Canyon,” he says.

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He thinks a TSA agent filched the hat, and he wants it back. So he emailed the agency charged with protection our transportation systems.

A hat did not make the trip From Philadelphia to Anchorage with a connection in Minneapolis. I know it was packed because when packing I had to make a choice between two and choose the hat I had from Sedona.

I find it hard to believe that someone would steal it and suspect that sloppy work by a TSA person who looked at the contents of my luggage knocked it to the side and did not return it to my bag.

Here’s the TSA’s form response:

Thank you for your e-mail.

On February 17, 2002, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) assumed responsibility for security at all airports in the United States. TSA was required by law to replace contract screeners with a workforce of Federal screeners by November 19, 2002. Incrementally, airports were staffed with Federal screeners until TSA met that mandate. One of our key objectives has been to ensure that all passengers consistently receive professional and courteous checkpoint processing while maintaining our high level of security. Along with expanded training on the enhanced security procedures, each Federal airport screener receives training on professional and courteous conduct to make the process run smoothly and reduce the inconvenience to the public.

Each airport establishes procedures for handling lost and found items. TSA follows those procedures where they exist. The airports in those instances are responsible for holding and disposing items under applicable local laws. Items such as locks, tags, straps, and other external luggage pieces are often lost or damaged as the baggage goes through the baggage handling equipment and may or may not have been found by airline airport personnel.

In an airport where no policy exists, found articles are collected, stored, and disposed of under General Services Administration rules. TSA is unable to identify and return all items, but may be able to locate and return items on a case-by-case basis. We suggest you contact the airport at which your items were confiscated or lost.

We work very hard to achieve consistency in the security processes. As we inspect screening operations at airports and receive feedback from the traveling public, we address inconsistencies and ensure corrective actions are taken, when necessary. We will continue to do all that we can to inspect screening operations and provide written procedures and training to specify how the process is to be applied.

We encourage passengers to visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. All travelers are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. The website has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations that may assist in preparing for air travel. Passengers can go directly to these tips at http: www.TSATravelTips.us.

We hope that this information provides you with a better understanding of the screening process and the procedures necessary to ensure safety.

TSA Contact Center

This is no answer. This is nothing more than a form reply that’s intended to make passengers like Marcolongo go away.

I mentioned a few strategies recently that he might consider in appealing this boilerplate rejection and I’ve also published a few management contacts on my customer service blog.

“I assume this is my loss?” he says.

Yes, probably. In order for Marcolongo to make a successful claim, he’d need to get an original receipt for the hat (impossible, since it was a gift) and he’d probably have to endure a lengthy wait.

I’m sorry to say, this is a lost cause. But it does make you wonder about the TSA claims process. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s rigged to make air travelers — even those with legitimate grievances — give up in frustration and walk away.

Then again, his luggage may have been pilfered by a baggage handler. In which case he would have probably received a similar response to his complaint.

(Photo: TheGiantVermin/Flickr)