Monday, January 23, 2017

Forgetful fliers yield a trove of stuff

State employee Rocky Bostrom holds a framing hammer on sale for $1 at the state surplus store in Concord.

State employee Rocky Bostrom talks about items for sale, including an abundance of snow globes, that were collected from airport security checkpoints at the state surplus store in Concord. 

A keepsake photo display asking a sister to be her bridesmaid ended up for sale at the state surplus store in Concord.

A traveler juggles his belongings while going through the TSA checkpoint at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Wednesday. Thousands of items that are prohibited on airplanes and items misplaced end up for sale at the state surplus store in Concord. 

CONCORD - That Swiss Army knife you forgot in your pocket and surrendered at the airport security checkpoint might end up in a box with hundreds of others selling for two dollars at the state surplus store.

Orphaned snow globes that didn't make it to their destinations for Christmas sell for a buck or two - at least 10 times less than their sticker price. And you can find enough tools - hammers, screwdrivers and electric saws - to stock a garage workbench.

Welcome to a place where a passenger's loss can turn into a shopper's gain.

"We get whatever (cash) we can, whatever the market will bear," said Rocky Bostrom, manager of the state surplus store, White Farm. "Our customer base is pretty frugal."

Bostrom drives periodically to four New England airports - in Manchester, Boston, Rhode Island and Connecticut - to collect voluntarily abandoned property, including lost items not claimed at some airports.

"I take what they give me," he said, recalling how he used surrendered rocks and bricks to improve drainage outside the Concord store at 144 Clinton St.

The state gets the items for free.

Bostrom deflected answering what were the most unusual items he's handled.

"Some of it we can't talk about," he said. "You want to be wearing gloves when you sort through this stuff."

The store is only open to the public between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Mondays, except on holidays.

"Between 6:30 and 7, there could be five to 15 people on the door step," Bostrom said.

Some of the merchandise, he said, is destined for eBay or flea markets.

The store generated $131,020 in sales during fiscal year 2016, which ended last June 30. That is 62 percent higher than in 2014. The money is used to help fund operations, which includes selling off state-owned surplus property, such as desks and file cabinets.

Some items, such as jewelry, end up on online auctions.

The store's existence surprised some Manchester-bound passengers.

"Wow, that's crazy," Massachusetts airline passenger Tara Richards-Heim said while waiting for her luggage last week. "I figured they threw it all away."

She recalled her father giving up a pocket knife he forgot he had at the airport.

Federal law requires airport passengers to put their carry-on items through security screening run by the Transportation Security Administration, which posts on its website a list of prohibited items.

TSA gives passengers the option of placing prohibited items in their checked luggage, back in their car, mailed to a destination or handed off to someone not traveling.

"Most items that are prohibited in carry-on luggage are perfectly acceptable in checked luggage, where they cannot be accessed during the flight - think of sharp blades (utility knives, etc.), which are all acceptable in checked luggage but prohibited in carry-on luggage," TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy said in an email.

Liquids can't be more than 3.4 ounces per package with all liquids, gels and aerosols required to fit into one quart-size bag.

During 2016, Manchester's airport averaged 316 pounds of liquids/gels/aerosols collected a month along with 87 pounds of voluntarily abandoned property. Both are lower than 2015, when the monthly averages were 405 and 91 pounds, respectively.

The store's inventory included a selection of sports gear. A half-dozen lacrosse sticks can sell from $2 to $20 each while golf clubs can be priced at between $5 and $50. A pool stick in a carrying case wore a $15 price tag.

Some electronics don't end up at the store.

Digital cameras, cellphone and laptops left behind at checkpoints are kept for 30 to 60 days before they are shipped to TSA headquarters, where they have their storage or hard drive wiped for privacy reasons, McCarthy said. The hardware isn't resold.

Tom Malafronte, deputy airport director at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, said "lost and found items are logged and stored until they are claimed. We hold lost items for at least 180 days and conduct periodic auctions if it becomes necessary."

Last week's store offerings included a grenade-themed belt buckle for $2, a flashlight in a replica .50-caliber shell for $5 and a three-piece cheese set for $5.

At least a hundred mini-bats, mainly stamped with a Red Sox logo, were up for grabs.

"Three for a buck. I was trying to move 'em," Bostrom said. "We have some more in stock (out back)." 

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