Logical Discussions with Airport Security, Deodorant Edition

Arrive at Auckland’s airport. Go through security. I have this discussion:

Security Gentleman: May I look through your bag to check for creams or gels?

Me: Certainly.

SG: (Holding up deodorant). Well, this is a gel and it says 4 ounces on it. You can only have 3 ounces.

Me: (cursing myself for forgetting to take obviously dangerous anti-smell gel out of my bag prior to flight) Well, it’s only about 1/3rd full. There’s clearly not 4 ounces in it.

SG: I know, but we go by what is on the label. The label says 4 ounces.

Me: OK, but there’s obviously not 4 ounces in it.

SG: That’s true.

Me: Then why can’t I bring it?

SG: Because the label says 4 ounces.

Me: Can I cross out the label and write, “just about 2 ounces” on it?

SG: No.

Me: Why not? I thought the label matters.

SG: It does, but it has to be printed on there.

(seriously, I had this conversation)

Me: So the ban isn’t on the amount of gel in the container, it’s a ban on what’s written on the label?

SG: No, it’s what’s in the container.

Me: But there isn’t 4 ounces in the container.

SG: No, there’s not. But I’m going to throw it out.

And so he did.


  1. Yeah that’s been the rule for as long as the 3-1-1 business has been in effect, pretty insensible.

    If they can’t actually measure what’s left, the volume on the label stands.

  2. Next time you should ask that since what’s printed on the label is the determining factor, then what would he do if someone professionally altered a label to read “3 oz.” but this particularly large container was obviously holding a a couple pounds of shampoo. Just for the sake of carrying on the entertaining dialogue.

  3. …or you could have just summed the whole absurd conversation with “so what you’re telling me is common sense plays no part in this process.”

  4. Ha! Great story. On my next flight I am going to bring a bunch of empty 4 oz containers.

    Even better, will print my own labels saying 5oz an put them on 2oz containers and vice versa!

  5. I enjoy bringing my liquids into the security area just to annoy the TSA. I don’t throw away my liquids…I pour them out.

    For me, it’s a sport and fun exposing their illogical procedures.

    Bottom line: TSA is nothing more than security theater!

  6. I had a conversation with a T&A agent about the amount of radiation I was receiving. I asked him how much it was. He said “not much”. I assume he had some sort of Nuclear Physics degree. I asked how much is “not much”. He said less than I would receive from a television. I asked, “what kind of a television”? He wasn’t sure, but he took me aside. My wife scolded me, he patted me down, and I resumed my trip. When I got through, I suggested he find out as he was exposed to this radiation day in and day out. The system stinks. It’s not about security, it’s about creating a process where the workers don’t have to think.

    • Did you honestly think you would get even a semi-intelligent answer from a TSA Vogon who has, at best, a high school education?

  7. that’s nonsense because they do allow empty water bottle, and they even specify how much water (though not much at all) can actually be left inside the bottle…