Photo by GovDeals
The state of Pennsylvania is auctioning off 14 pounds of assorted knives, 12 pounds of scissors, and six pounds of reading glasses in bulk at deep discount prices.That's according to postings on GovDeals, a website where government agencies sell off surplus inventory—including property confiscated from travelers by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).Twitter user Cliff Jerrison shared a series of screenshots of various listings from GovDeals, which include some truly bizarre deals on bulk items. “I found the website where the TSA sells your stuff,” he wrote.
The listings advertise approximately 12 pounds of scissors starting at $12, and 11 pounds of assorted box cutters and knives starting at $20. Both listed the Pennsylvania Federal Surplus Property as the seller, but the items are described as "The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Sale of TSA Property."
Everybody has tried to carry something they shouldn't through a TSA checkpoint at some time or another—whether it's oversized beauty products, nail clippers, or Swiss Army knives. But these listings raised concerns about what happens when you leave your item with TSA security. TSA regional spokesperson Lisa Farbstein told Motherboard that travelers have a series of options when they are stopped for carrying a prohibited item. Using a knife for example, Farbstein explained that a traveler could put the knife in their checked bag, leave it with someone who is not traveling, mail it somewhere using the airport’s mailing service, or surrender it to the TSA agents. According to a 2015 investigation done by The Washington Post, belongings that are taken by the TSA and items left in the airport are collected at the end of every day. They estimated that around 100 to 150 pounds of items can be taken on a typical day, sometimes more during the holidays. Items that are surrendered to TSA then get boxed up and transferred to the state, or commonwealth. The state then has the authority to sell or auction the items off using websites such as GovDeals.
Other listings from the Pennsylvania Federal Surplus Property Program include a variety of nail clippers, FitBits and Apple AirPods. All of these listings are categorized as “confiscated/forfeited/personal property” on the GovDeals website.
Farbstein told Motherboard that any profit made from these sales goes to the state, not TSA. Troy Thompson, press secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, told Motherboard that the Pennsylvania Federal Surplus Property Program has always been “profitable.” He estimates that the program, which has been running since 2004, has earned millions of dollars over the years. Cars, tools, airplanes, and more from government agencies across the country are available on GovDeals. A quick search of the “confiscated/forfeited/personal property” category shows listings such as diamond jewelry being sold by Knox County, Tennessee, an Apple iPad of unknown condition being sold by the Jessup, Maryland Police Department, and a stainless steel Rolex from the Kenton, Kentucky County Fiscal Court that is currently bidding for $9,200.