Texas profits off airport property seizures

Posted by David Gomez

In Texas one person’s seized property is another person’s treasure. That’s because the Texas State Surplus Store makes a lot of money selling items that were confiscated at airports.  

According to the Austin American-Statesman, one of the most common items for sale is snow globes. They’re filled with liquid so that means that you aren’t allowed to take them on an airplane. The store gets its inventory from state surplus and of course items that were left behind or confiscated.

"We say willfully surrendered," said cashier Roberta Siller.

The confiscated items come from airport security checkpoints in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco, El Paso and other small airports.

The store has been open for five years, and its plane-related inventory has increased greatly because of the government’s heightened security, according to director James Barrington. The airport items fill up the majority of a small room at the store.  And in 2010, the state's general fund increased by $300,000 because of the store’s sales.

There is also a big warehouse that is filled with desks, chairs, file cabinets and other items state agencies are trying to get rid of. Sales of those items gave $6.9 million back to state agencies, who took 25 percent to replace their desks and chairs and gave 75 percent to the state's general fund.

That stuff that is taken from travelers is being used to help with the state’s financial problems.

Austin craftsman Eric Billig, who makes designs from concrete, wood, steel and glass, was at the store in search of box cutters recently.

"I'm a local artisan, and I come here and get cheap tools," he said. "Look at this one. It's really nice. It has its own case. That would be $20 in a store. It's three bucks here."

The store has more knives and sharp things for sale than anything else. Some are cheap and sell for a dollar and some of them are sold at prices up to $150.

"We've had a few people come in who've had their knives taken away, and sometimes we can find them for them," Siller said, adding that the agency looks at eBay to figure out how to price items.

Real guns and anything gun related is illegal at airports as well. The store sells gun-shaped items, including toy guns and one large, rhinestone-studded belt buckle shaped like a gun. Another buckle is shaped like a hand grenade. Airport security will not allow things like that to pass through.

All in all the confiscated items consist of almost anything you can imagine.  And if you are in the market for a new car the store has a used state trooper car they will sell you for $5,500. No badge comes with it though.