I have posted on this forum previously of my unhappy encounters with TSA luggage checkers, at whose hands I have lost several minor items, including hiking poles twice! I am sufficiently savvy to know to never leave valuable items in checked bags, wherever in the world we head. However, on each of these previous occasions when we have had our checked bags opened, at least TSA have extended the courtesy of leaving a note to advise that the bag was opened by them, and they have also taken the trouble to leave most items as they found them and replace the cable ties we always use to keep the zippers on our checked luggage closed.
I cannot claim to be a frequent US visitor, but we visit a couple of times most years so are fairly familiar with how things work, both for international flights and domestic ones. We returned from our most recent trip a few days ago. We used to travel more frequently; nowadays our trips are mostly just for leisure reasons are are less frequent but for much, much longer and we always have checked luggage to cater to the varied needs of our extended trips.
This trip we had 3 out of our 4 checked items opened, which does seem to be the pattern of our experiences, but this time things were different. Firstly, no note was left to inform us that it was TSA who had cut the cable ties and opened the bags. And I know this means it's entirely possible that the bags could have been opened by other interested bodies, including thieves, and even more than once along the whole process at more than one airport, but there's little evidence to support this.
However, why I feel it's likely that it was TSA who opened the bags once again was that so far nothing appears to be missing at all and the way the bags were disturbed, suggests the bags were opened to seek out items that possibly looked suspicious from x-ray or security screening equipment. A long umbrella had moved from the bottom to the top of one bag. The thing that really bugged me, though, was that a glass bottle of maple syrup was disturbed. I had carefully wrapped it in 3 layers of plastic to try and contain any sticky mess, should the bottle break, then rolled it in a sweatshirt and placed it in the middle of the contents of a case. The plastic bags had been cut through with some blade to reach the contents quickly and then the empty bags and the glass bottle put back on top of everything and the bag closed up again. At least, mercifully, my bottle of syrup arrived home intact, despite my careful efforts to protect it being in vain, having travelled all the way protected from any rough handling by no more than the thickness of canvas luggage.
So, have TSA stopped using notes to advise passengers that it was they who opened the checked luggage?
Do they no longer replace cable ties?