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Monday, June 20, 2011

Traveler’s ‘willfully surrendered’ items a boon to state surplus stores

Where have all the snow globes gone? To the state surplus store

Among the more unusual items found at the outlet are belt buckles that resemble weapons.

Among the more unusual items found at the outlet are belt buckles that resemble weapons.

 

 

Alberto Martínez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Need a Texas-themed snow globe? Try the state surplus store. But don't bring them on a flight: That's how a lot of the globes got their new home. Travelers have had to surrender these and many other items to get through the security line and on their way.

Need a Texas-themed snow globe? Try the state surplus store. But don't bring them on a flight: That's how a lot of the globes got their new home. Travelers have had to surrender these and many other items to get through the security line and on their way.

Alberto Martínez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

An even more strange 'surrended' item is this hangman's noose, kept in a display case up front. It's not for sale.

An even more strange 'surrended' item is this hangman's noose, kept in a display case up front. It's not for sale.

Alberto Martínez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beaming girl's picture is encased in the snow globe, which is about the size of a grapefruit and rests atop an expensive-looking wooden base proclaiming, "Congratulations, graduate!"

Alas, the graduate never received this gift. It rests amid a sea of San Antonio snow globes — and a few globes from Denver, Chicago and Disney World — on the shelves of the Texas State Surplus Store at 6506 Bolm Road, off U.S. 183.

Because it's filled with liquid, you can't carry a snow globe onto an airplane. But some travelers haven't gotten the message, or maybe it slips their minds during their harried packing for summer vacation. Thus, rows and rows of snow globes sit at the surplus store, which gets its inventory not only from state surplus but also from items that were left behind or confiscated — "We say willfully surrendered," said cashier Roberta Siller — at airport security checkpoints in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco, El Paso and other small airports.

In the five years this store has been open, its plane-related inventory has soared because of heightened security, according to director James Barrington. The airport stuff takes up most of one small room at the store. In 2010, the state's general fund was enriched $300,000 by the storefront's sales.

Behind that room, a large warehouse is filled with desks, chairs, file cabinets and other items state agencies want to get rid of. Sales of that merchandise (along with some too big to fit in the warehouse) sent $6.9 million back to state agencies, who kept 25 percent to replace their desks, chairs and such and gave 75 percent to the state's general fund.

In its own small way, the stuff travelers leave behind is helping ease the state's financial woes.

On one recent day, Austin craftsman Eric Billig, who creates designs from concrete, wood, steel and glass, was at the store in search of box cutters.

"I'm a local artisan, and I come here and get cheap tools," he said. "Look at this one. It's really nice. It has its own case. That would be $20 in a store. It's three bucks here."

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