Sunday, July 8, 2012

TSA killed my laptop

On my trip to India, we opted for the pat down instead of the scanner as we always do. Trying to have a baby, we do not need anything working against us. When doing an opt out, you are not allowed to carry your things to the pat down area - TSA agents will do that for you. At least that's the way it works in our airport.

Going through the security line, we noticed that one of the TSA agents was yelling at everyone for a variety of things. If you dared forget to take even a sliver of paper out of your pocket, you were yelled at in front of everyone. I received my pat down and started putting my things back together when I noticed my husband was one of those people. We travel very frequently and he carries non-metal things in his pocket all the time - never previously a problem. This time it was. As my husband does not take it well when people in positions of power are abusive, he argued with the TSA agent, but then eventually was allowed through. 

After he went through the metal detector, he was brought over to the pat down area. I was still gathering all my stuff, but was distracted as the TSA agent began to yell at other people. Had my attire back together and started putting all of my things they had brought over back in the bags. 

After my husband's pat-down, I noticed he was visibly distressed. Not surprising. In the airport there is a TSA stand where you can see agents sitting down, talking, doing paperwork. My husband gathered his items that the agents had brought over and headed to the TSA stand. 

At the stand, he stated he wanted to file a compliant, but the agent stated that she would take his complaint orally. Since we had an overseas flight to catch, we didn't want to investigate if that was enough or if we should insist on filing a form. After all, they could always throw it away if it was what they were trying to avoid.

It was in right before we landed in Paris (our layover) that we realized his laptop was never returned to him. As the plane landed, we rushed to talk to the stewardess, but there was nothing she could do; they don't even have TSA overseas. Then it hit me as we got off the plane: my laptop had not been returned to me either. One is a mistake - two laptops not returned is something else all together. 

In a flurry of long distance cell phone calls, we were able to contact my brother and his wife to get the process started of trying to get our laptops back. They found out the number to our airport TSA and the general number. Even though it was still the middle of the night in our original airport, I left a message for the manager of TSA customer service for that airport. (Big surprise - he never called back.) 

Fortunately my brother was able to retrieve the laptops the next day; he was really on top of it. While he was picking them up, he heard the lady in lost and found drop a laptop. He asked if it was one of ours, but she insisted it was not and opened up another laptop stating it was that one. My brother was all prepared to give his ID and the passwords to the computers, but no need, the employee said he had "an honest face" and let him take both laptops without any proof what-so-ever.

When he got home he booted the laptops up to make sure they were the right ones. They were, but unfortunately mine would not boot. Rather than having him send the laptops to India like we originally planned, we decided not to risk more damage and vowed to take care of it on our return.

Well I've returned and it's not good. My 6 month old laptop is fried. For the first time in my life I took my computer to a repair shop (I'm an IT person), because it was clear that it needed tools that the average IT person does not have for data recovery. After days of trying different methods, the data recovery shop had to inform me that none of the data was recoverable and it was the worst case of damage by dropping that they had ever seen - and they see a lot. 

Normally I back up my hard drives, but with all of our recent unexpected travel (we've had a lot) and medical things, I just didn't get it around to it. I am sick to my stomach over what is lost forever. Not to mention the weeks and weeks worth of work on it. My computer has been shipped off to HP in hopes that in the very least it will still be covered it under warranty and that I will not have to "drop" another $600-$800 on a new one. 

Now the computer shop tells me that not only do they get A LOT of PCs that TSA has dropped, but that it is very common for TSA not to return things to people who are flying. Apparently if it goes unnoticed, all items are auctioned after 30 days. How many guesses do you want on who goes to those auctions... 

WILL UPDATE MORE AS MY CLAIM AND COMPLAINT PROCESS PROCEEDS. It is not a fast process from what I understand. Their website claims 3 weeks to even acknowledge your compliant and 6 weeks to resolve. 


  1. I am dying a little for you here. Yes, it's an object and not a person, but I totally get the loss that you're feeling. My school is way behind the technology curve, and I use my personal laptop for everything there. When I got a virus and it went to the blue screen of death, I sort of choked a little in my panic. Half my life, all of my medical research, back-ups of legal documents, correspondence, professional grades, and more were stored on that. Thankfully, I was able to extract the hard drive from mine. So, the loss was not as great as yours, but I do understand how you're feeling to some extent. I hope that HP can do something to help. Not fun to come home to this, for sure!

    1. Yea, I've come to terms with it, but mostly because I don't even know all that I have lost yet. I'm going to try not to dwell on it too much and just be EXTRA vigilant when going through TSA in the future. Wrote the original post on the day that I found out data was not retrievable and then put it in draft folder.

      Mainly I want OTHERs to be really aware this can happen and avoid it if possible.

      I don't expect HP to be able to recover data, but I do hope they will give me a new hard drive.

  2. Oh, so so very awful. What kind of ugly types do work there?! I'm very sad for you!


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