The stresses of holiday travel can cause people to do forbidden and unacceptable things, like try and walk onto an airplane with a large jar containing a rattlesnake stuffed in their pants.
Items like this get confiscated by the TSA, but where do they go after that? To the Texas State Surplus Store, of course! Located on the outskirts of Austin in a rundown building next door to the Texas Railroad Commission, the State Surplus Store is the only store of its kind in the entire state. It serves as a depository for the contraband items that get snatched up in airports all around Texas.
Yep, you got that right — anyone looking to reclaim the throwing stars that they weren’t allowed to bring on the plane can just drive on over to the store and buy them back again!
Forget to check your power drill and had to ditch it before going through the IAH scanners? Go pick another one up for cheap at the surplus store! Didn’t realize that samurai swords weren’t permitted in your carry on at DFW? Don’t worry — there are more than three available at the store, including some tiny ones. Tried to sneak a garrote on to your flight in San Antonio so you could choke your seat mate to death when he wouldn’t shut the hell up during Cars 3?
Not so fast.
Kristy Fierro, director of the State and Federal Property Program, said you might be out of luck on that one, and the same goes for your spiky brass knuckles, you outlaw. All illegal and “inappropriate” items that the store’s employees pick up from various Texas airports during their monthly runs get melted down in a large vat and disposed of.
“Once we picked up a noose — that was inappropriate,” Fierro said in an interview with FPH. “There’s been double edged knives, we won’t typically sell those. A garrote — we got one of those today. Braided piano wire that someone might use to strangle people — it’s just not appropriate. We have a big vat we send all that stuff to be smelted down.”
All the brass knuckles with spikes on them go in there,” she added. “We don’t sell that kind of stuff.”
Illegal and inappropriate items that aren’t for sale also include anything with swastikas or profanity on it, as well as the good ol’ rattlesnake in a jar. Fierro said the snake used to be on display in the store’s official “Case of Curios,” but ultimately had to be ditched because it violated the store’s mission.
“We’re supposed to display items that we could actually sell, instead of just teasing people with things we can’t price,” she said.
So what kind of stuff does Fierro and her crew of junk-sifting employees sell at their state-run Goodwill facility? Basically anything else — especially if it resembles a knife. As you can see below, the State Surplus Store is a verifiable wonderland of cheap-ass horseshit you can buy your dad for Father’s Day, all confiscated at airport security checkpoints around Texas.
The same goes for toy guns, snow globes, something called a Pump Action Marshmallow Raider, throwing stars, baseball bats, nunchucks, power tools, wooden paddles that a passenger might try to spank the pilot with, and random objects like reading glasses that people forget to grab off the TSA X-Ray conveyor belt. Fierro and her crew pick it all up from Texas airports throughout the year and dump it in huge bins for sorting.
Regulars come in to the store all the time, many of them looking for weird electronics from the 80s. You see, the store is also a graveyard for outdated office equipment that state agencies want to get rid of. In a room located past a dozen bins of pocket knives, there’s a warehouse of cheap office chairs and electronics people will never use, like a precursor to modern day smartphones called the Text Telephone Minicom IV.
A man who identified himself to FPH as Smithy had picked the Text Telephone up last week, and he said that he comes to the Surplus Store often to check out the deals. The store is always a good place to pick up a belt or shoes, Smithy said, or even a throwing star that he can use to chunk at old beer cans behind his house. Also there’s always the oft-overlooked romantic allure that the store’s secondhand atmosphere offers.
“I like to bring my Tinder dates here,” Smithy said, preparing to bring his haul of 10 cent knives and junky electronics back to his car. “It’s a weird place with a weird smell.”