“Your response is a clear indication that YOU DON’T CARE and NOTHING WILL IMPROVE!” This is not what any well-run organization wants people to think of its response to their complaints. But complaint records obtained through a FOIA request show that this is exactly what travelers think of the TSA’s responses. Today, the second part of a series on TSA complaint records.
See part one here, with a description of my FOIA request and a discussion of the TSA’s response to it.
As I wrote last time, the records of discussions between the TSA’s contractor-run contact center and unhappy air travelers show that the TSA uses its passenger complaint procedures to insulate itself from the people it mistreats, not to address their concerns. Here are two more examples.
On July 14th of this year, a U.S. Navy officer complained about the rude treatment he got from a TSA officer while traveling through Orlando International Airport with his wife the previous month. The TSA agent, he wrote, was “rude and insulting”; his behavior was “disrespectful” and “unprofessional.” You can read this full complaint here; and don’t miss this part: “I also spoke to a supervisor who informed me that this is not the first time someone has complained about [name redacted].”
The cut-and-paste response from K4 Solutions, the TSA contractor that runs the agency’s call center? “Please be advised that a passenger can always request to speak with the Supervisory Transportation Security Officer at the checkpoint to address any complaint regarding security procedures.”
Passenger is treated rudely, complains to supervisor. Supervisor says that oh yeah, lots of people complain about that guy, he’s rude to everybody. Passenger writes to TSA to tell them about both the rude officer and the indifferent supervisor. TSA contact center tells him, in a sentence it cuts and pastes into nearly every one of its complaint responses, that he should be aware that it’s possible to speak to a supervisor at airport checkpoints.
Better yet, the TSA complaint center promises in their cut-and-paste response to report the complaint to TSA managers at the airport — the very place where the passenger originally made his complaint and was originally ignored.
Not listening. At all.
And the traveler who sent the complaint can tell that the TSA isn’t listening. His follow-up to the non-responsive “response”:
Thank you for doing absolutely nothing about this employee’s rude, arrogant, and abusive behavior. I informed a supervisor at the airport. They told me to report it here. Now you are telling me that you are reporting it to them, when they told me to report it here. Does that really make any sense?
It makes perfect sense – if you work in a system designed to deflect criticism and misery.
Here’s another back-and-forth between a traveler and the TSA contact center. In this one, a PreCheck participant was turned away from the PreCheck line, and writes to the TSA for an explanation. “Why do you promote participation in the PreCheck program when it means nothing?” the passenger writes, suddenly waking up and realizing he’s been had.
The response is the usual pile of boilerplate gibberish; the contact center cuts and pastes a series of paragraphs to tell the passenger – who is enrolled in PreCheck – that the TSA has a program called PreCheck, and passengers directed to the PreCheck line might be allowed to leave their shoes on.
Query: I enrolled in PreCheck, but you wouldn’t let me use it. Answer: Did you know that if you were enrolled in PreCheck, you could leave your shoes on in the airport security checkpoint?
The TSA’s contact center contractors fail the Turing test – and they’re actually human.
Again, the traveler can tell his complaint has bounced off a wall, and writes back to say so:
Your response is downright RUDE and DISCOURTEOUS.
I take the time to bring a specific situation to your attention with the hope someone at TSA may be concerned sufficiently to research the situation and initiate corrective measures.
AND YOU SEND ME A FORM LETTER RESPONSE?
I don’t need a class on how to use the PreCheck service, I know how the program works.
Your TSA staff did not respond to my questions correctly and they directed me to the wrong check-in line. How does this change if YOU DON’T LISTEN?
There is not one reference in your correspondence to the situation I relayed in my correspondence.
Your response is a clear indication that YOU DON’T CARE and NOTHING WILL IMPROVE!