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To check or not to check, that's my question

To check or not to check, that's my question

Aug 26th, 2004, 08:57 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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To check or not to check, that's my question

For the last five years I've traveled to Europe with only a carry-on bag, but this year I want to take a bit more baggage than usual and was planning to check luggage...until I read recent reports about the rise in thefts from unlocked checked luggage. I actually had a gift-wrapped scarf taken this spring on a short domestic flight where I had checked a bag, but somehow it didn't sink in as a major problem until now.

I usually pack my favorite clothes, some new and some not, and would hate to lose any to sticky-fingered airline or TSA employees. (By the way, how do they do it? Don't others see it when one person steals from a suitcase? Are they all in cahoots? Where do they put the stuff until their shift ends? Inquiring minds...)

Now I think maybe I should go back to the carry-on only idea. Have any of you had things stolen from your checked bags? What do you think are the odds?
shellio is offline  
Aug 26th, 2004, 09:15 PM
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I recognize your name from here so I'm going to assume you're not a troll. This seems to be a hotly debated issue here... and those on the "just check it" fence seem to think that anyone who does carry-on only is just plain wrong. They like to suggest that your personal belongings are of no interest to thiefs... blah blah blah.

I have always been a carry-on only person myself... but this time I am bringing my baby so I think my days of hopping on with my Eagle Creek carry on are long gone. But I've agonized over the decision.

I recently posted a link to an NYT article which said that they've been doing stings to catch luggage thiefs and most notably at JFK airport they caught not only baggage handlers, but also TSA employees, pilfering things such as pens, electronics, and brand name clothing.

My approach on this trip is to put my absolute favorite articles of clothing in my carryon, and I'm flying Virgin so I'm having to really limit my carryon to 13 pounds which is hard, and I am checking everything else. I do have travel insurance this time also, but if I didn't, I would probably use my homeowners insurance if the whole luggage went missing. I don't know what I'll do if indvidual pieces are gone... but if they are I'm just resigned to that fact. There just doesn't seem to be any other way around it.

I also think I'm going to just use the cable ties instead of locking it. I think the locks might suggest to someone that there's something in there to steal.

About wrapped gifts, we're visiting family and have gifts, but we're leaving them unwrapped. I think the TSA actually confiscates them because they have to see what's inside.

Good luck.
It's a hard choice.
Another drawback in my mind for checking is that for people who like to travel light, checking is sort of an enticement to carry more, since you do need to have 2 bags instead of one. So you think, hey, I'm checking luggage so I'll bring those red capri pants in case of a special evening. And I'll throw in those sandals... etc etc etc. Before you know it, you've got more stuff. At least that's what happened with me this time.

As soon as I no longer need to carry around her baby gear the whole family is going back to carry-on only!
skatterfly is offline  
Aug 26th, 2004, 09:29 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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My mom doesn't know about this site, so it is ok.

My mom had "an accident" in her denim skirt the day she was going to be flying home. There was no time to do wash, so she put the skirt in a plastic (store bag) and put it in her luggage. (right on top) She also had some watches she won on her cruise ... the watches and even the skirt (soiled and all) never made it home!!
FromAtlanta is offline  
Aug 26th, 2004, 10:58 PM
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skatterfly, I don't know why you think I'm a troll; it's cold and damp under those bridges and I like my comforts.

I saw the NYT article, which is why I'm taking it seriously. Previously I'd assumed it happened infrquently enough that the chances were slim that it would happen to me.

Alabama, when did your mother's "package" go missing? Was it recently?

And I'm actually serious about wondering how this sort of thing happens. Where are the bags opened that allows the sort of privacy that theft would seem to require?
shellio is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 06:09 AM
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Hi shell,

Don't pack anything in checked luggage that you can't replace.

How do they do it? They are all in cahoots.
ira is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 07:12 AM
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It was almost a year ago.

I would have never been concerned about this. It is something that you hear about, but never think it could happen ... but it does. The sad thing is that you KNOW it has to be the employees. It is a very sad time we are living in.

I don't have many valuables, but the few things I would rather not lose will go with me in a carry on.

My mom loved that skirt (it was new and she is STILL looking for one to replace it) but that isn't the end of the world.

We just have to be aware of the possibilities now.
FromAtlanta is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 07:25 AM
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Mostly everyone is worried about theft but I'm not so worried about that because I don't pack valuable items. What is a bigger problem to me with checking bags is how often they lose them. Since 9/11 it seems to have gotten much worse. On a trip to Italy since we had to check 1 bag, I made the mistake of saying we might as well check them all. Big mistake! They lost all of our bags and we ended up having only the clothes on our backs into the 3rd day of the trip. Same thing in another trip to Spain but after the earlier experience we took a change of clothes and toiletries in a carry on bag on that trip.
buongiorno is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 07:39 AM
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Is the lost checked-in baggage as bad a problem on a non-stop flight?
SuzieC is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 07:46 AM
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Hi Shellio,

We'll be checking our backpacks for our trip to Europe next week. They're too big for carry-on, and they can't really be locked, so all of my jewelry (and of course our camera, etc.) will be in my carry-on bag. If thieves want my Old Navy and Gap clothes, I can't stop them.

My grandmother recently flew from Detroit to Philly and checked her locked suitcase. When she picked it up after the flight, the bag was slashed open, and her two watches were gone. (Why she packed them in there, I don't know.) So even locking the bags doesn't matter. The airline people told her that TSA is authorized to slash open suitcases if they see something suspicious on the X-ray. The airline people thought that they were suspicious of a "shiny object"--her hand mirror! I have no idea what to make of that. It's a weird story.

I just try to keep in mind that millions of people enjoy safe and theft-free flights every day. You just don't hear about those stories!
strass is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 08:16 AM
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Shellio, I didn't mean to say you were a troll... just that this topic seems to be one of those that polarizes people. No offense intended!

What airline will you be flying? BA and Virgin have such strict carryon limits, don't know about the other airlines anymore.
skatterfly is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 08:58 AM
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I used to be die-hard carry-on only person, but with stricter weight limits recently on my BA flights, I now check one 22-24" rolling suitcase. Never had a problem and it really is nice not to schlep baggage during your airport layovers and transfers. Use those little plastic slip ties instead of a lock (not that they would keep a theif out but you can tell if you bag has been opened).

Unless you can truly travel with a 19" suitcase max., I feel carry-on is more trouble than it is worth and a thing of the past.

I did buy a new carry-on from TravelPro, small tote on rollers that was a dream. It can then piggy-back on the larger suitcase.
suze is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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I'll be flying UA and nonstop. Does anyone know where the checked bag inspection is done at SFO for UA? I seem to remember bags going off into the bowels of the airport, but some people (at other airports I think) have reported being able to accompany their bags to the search point and relock them afterwards. Does this only happen at smaller airports?

Do you really think so? I get a whiff of Ira-ny from your comment.
shellio is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 10:03 AM
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I can't speak for Ira, but indeed there was a recently busted ring of baggage stealers among the handlers at Canada's YYZ (Toronto) airport.
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 10:43 AM
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I have had my own horror stories about checked luggage, but all you have to do is read this one from Conde Nast Traveler magazine ombudsman column and you would never ever check a bag again! (If the link below doesn't work, use www.concierge.com and search to find April 2004 column, titled "Clothes Calls". )


laurie_ann is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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"By the way, how do they do it? Don't others see it when one person steals from a suitcase? Are they all in cahoots? Where do they put the stuff until their shift ends? Inquiring minds...)"

Shellio, we had a ring of about 14 baggage inspectors arrested here in New Orleans a couple of months ago. They had videotaped them in the employee parking lot, divvying up the goods they had pilfered from checked luggage.

The police searched their homes and found numerous valuables like cameras, jewelery, etc. Letters to the editor of the paper came flooding in with people who had had items missing and the airlines and TSA had denied the claims, pointing the finger back at each other.

Ironically, it was another employee who tipped off the cops. The thieves had offered her a cut of the take to keep her quiet but this one obviously had a conscience.
Linda431 is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 05:07 PM
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Laurie ann, scary story, and a complaint I've heard before, which is why I started carrying on my bag when I traveled for business. A colleague of mine went from London to Frankfurt to Shanghai over about 4 days and her bags caught up to her when she was ready to leave Shanghai. Since I'm going nonstop to a single destination I thought it might be safe to check a bag this time, but I guess I won't, more for fear of theft than missing bags.

By the way, you can still lock bags coming back from Europe, right, as long as you're not making a connection in the US?

WillTravel and Linda 431, I guess Ira wasn't kidding; they are in cahoots. How sad.
shellio is offline  
Aug 27th, 2004, 08:30 PM
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Well, I just don't worry about anything being stolen from my one checked bag (no carry-on), since I don't have anything valuable in there.
I don't consider MY shirts, pants, socks and underwear to be of any great value. Just ask people who know me(lol).
I consider the only items of real value to be my passport, ticket, credit cards, ATM card and perhaps my gore-tex jacket. All those items are with me on the plane.
And I think Ira is right. Its a conspiracy!
platzman is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 08:10 AM
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Shellio, I think it IS safe to check bags. The vast majority of people never have any problems whatsoever. I've flown many times in the past three years and never experienced theft. Especially if it's a nonstop flight, I'd check your bag if you want to pack more things.
strass is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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While I would love to carry on my luggage, it's not really possible for me to do a 3 week trip with just a carry on bag.

So I check my bags, and I've never had a problem. Maybe because I don't have anything packed in there that is really worth taking.

My sister, on the other hand, travels to Paris on business 6-7 times a year. She's had things stolen out of her luggage twice - but she didn't listen to me when I told her to pack her digital camera and Louis Vuitton keepall in her carry on luggage. An expensive lesson learned - although United did cut a check for the full replacement value of the items after her company raised a stink about it.

Bottom line is not to pack anything in your checked luggage that you really don't want to lose.
chepar is offline  

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