Business bans TSA agents – will more follow?

KC McLawson works for a cafe near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and since the body-scan and patdown controversy last November, she says her boss has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the TSA knows of his displeasure.

“We have posted signs on our doors basically saying that they aren’t allowed to come into our business,” she says. “We have the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Banning TSA from a restaurant. Seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? (Here’s an update on the story.)

McLawson (an apparent pseudonym) explains:

My boss flies quite a bit and he has an amazing ability to remember faces. If he sees a TSA agent come in we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave.

Their kind aren’t welcomed in our establishment.

A large majority of our customers — over 90 percent — agree with our stance and stand by our decision.

We even have the police on our side and they have helped us escort TSA agents out of our cafe. Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve, then things will change for them in the private sector.

I wondered if putting TSA on the no-visit list was somewhat extreme. I mean, what have they done to deserve this? And then I reviewed the week’s troubling news.

TSA agents accused of stealing $40,000. Two New York-based TSA officers, Persad Coumar and Davon Webb, were accused of stealing the money from a piece of checked luggage containing $170,000 inside an American Airlines terminal at JFK. The charges include conspiracy, grand larceny and possession of stolen property. We already know that TSA has a little crime problem. But what about the passenger who checked a bag containing $170,000? Isn’t that asking for trouble?

Another TSA agent pleads guilty to stealing. If you think that’s just an isolated incident, then meet Michael Arato, a TSA officer at Newark airport. He admitted last week to swiping thousands of dollars in cash and other valuables from unsuspecting travelers, mostly non-English speakers. He also confessed to taking kickbacks from a subordinate officer, who stole between $10,000 and $30,000 over the course of a year while Arato reportedly agreed to look the other way. Most troubling, the crimes were committed after passengers were subjected to “additional” screening.

And speaking of Newark. The Newark Star-Ledger last week reported numerous security lapses at the airport, including knives and other dangerous objects that eluded screening. Perhaps the TSA officers would have noticed the contraband if it had been wrapped in greenbacks. But the problems aren’t limited to Newark. An armed officer was able to get through a body scanner in Dallas without being detected. Let me repeat that: A passenger with a gun slipped through one of those controversial full-body scanners that’s supposed to see everything. I guess it only works if you’re looking at the screen.

Senate hammers scanners. Lawmakers passed a measure that would make misusing body scanner images a federal crime punishable by up to a year in prison. It would prohibit anyone with access to the scanned body images from photographing or disseminating the snapshots. Besides a prison term, violators could be fined up to $100,000 per violation. Interestingly, I spoke with a reliable source about the images generated by these scanners, and he suggested that they are very detailed. I believe he may have used the term “pornographic.” Why hasn’t anyone objected? “It’s possible that the resolution was turned down when they showed the machines to reporters,” he told me. Ah, so they really can see my family jewels in crisp detail. Nice.

So why do passengers hate the TSA? Perhaps a better question is, “Why not?”

I asked McLawson if I could talk with her boss, but she declined. She says she hopes telling her story will raise awareness of the anger felt by small businesses across America toward the TSA.

“Maybe more businesses will step up to the plate and do the same,” she says.

(Photo: grend el khan/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Jeff L


  • Frequent Upset Flyier

    TSA agents are mean, they think they are higher than you specialy the afro american girl TSA agent that I encounter in various airports. who the hell do they think they are?

  • A314941

    The majority of the TSA’s problem is that those same “people just trying to work in a tough economy” are the ones who do not enforce the policies consistently.

    I fly 10 times a week and experience the attitudes of TSA agents on an almost daily basis.

    The only thing TSA do on a regular basis is treat the public with disrespect and disdain.

  • Nblapaz

    Just want to share my horrible story with the TSA whenI presented my identification; Nexus pass with global entry to TSA officer who was uncertain so I ask to have someone else look at it as I have had no problems with it at other airports. He called Mr. Timothy C. Gregory who stepped me aside with my 82 year old mother.  While he was examining my card I mentioned that I have had no problems using this at other airports and it is listed on the TSA website.  I tried to offer him the envelope it came in that said trusted traveler instead with a judgmental voice told me to follow him.  I was place in a secure area while he left 20min with my card then returning with a paper to fill out. Not raising my voice and using Sir:  I said I did not understand why I was here that he should have the knowledge of my identification as it is on the TSA website.  I asked for his name and badge number then he left again for 20 min taking our boarding pass. When he returned he asked me for another ID which I gave him.  He asked why I did not offer this sooner, I said no one asked and I have had no problems using my Nexus. I said to him that I have been treated very unfairly that this should not of happened.  He said I should of not called him stupid or push my card in his face.  I NEVER mentioned stupid or pushed my card in his face (mother will witness that).  At this point my mother said to him that we have never been treated this way EVER and that this in not right!  She began to cry so I comforted her and began to cry myself for the way I was labeled and mistreated.  He expedited us quickly as we both could not stop crying.  But after passing through the XRay screening he had me patted down,which I also felt was very uncalled for.   This incident caused us to miss our plane and wait 12 hours in the airport until we could fly out.  During that time both mom and I were so upset, cold and exhausted from how we were mistreated  that we never want to return to the Richmond airport againl

  • J.W.

    No, The TSA embarreses everyone they serve. I am from another country, and they though I was terrorist and put me on pat-down. If you like being molesed, support your friends. There is a darker side to all this trouble.

  • Barbie

    I totally understand why they feel that way but in the end what good does it really do.  There are a few good TSA agents that probably don’t deserve his ban.  But I have been seriously mistreated and have filed a complaint but nothing has happened.  So where are our rights?  Seems there are procedures for complaining but nothing becomes of our complaints.  At least there is this speak out.  It feels good to post our concerns so I am sure that is what the cafe owner has done since nothing else seems to work. mmmmm What do you think?

  • Jayme Sauder

    TSA will and is be in trouble.  Too many issues with them.

  • Baggie

    If they reported to work each day to shoot people in the back of the head and shove them in a trench I suppose you’d understand. Gotta put food on the table after all. They are just short of the line to doing that. I suspect if asked they’d step right up and put in a shift.

  • dkmdlb

    The “poor” people who work for the TSA are the ones inflicting the policies on people. It is their willingness to go along with what are obviously evil and tyrannical orders that has given the TSA the reputation it has. All they have to do is refuse to obey the policies and the policies themselves would go away. They are the enforcers. Without them, the “Agency and their policies and the people who make the policies” have no power.

    I say all businesses should refuse service to all TSA employees.

  • Guest

    America, you really need to wake up. TSA is NOT about security but about control. Our Mexican border remains wide open and this administration KNOWS Islamic terrorists come through it yet do nothing but will molest and demean Americans when they fly. Also the very people who are responsible for the creation of TSA are passing through security without molestation in full arab garb. Why? Because TSA does not want to offend their sensibilities! But its ok if your Judeo-Christian. I fear America has lost their sense of discernment in determining what is indecent. What parents would stand by while watching the TSA agents with his/her fingers in their young childs crotch?!!!