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An Unclear Future
June 23, 2009 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Clear, the "security service" that allowed travellers to bypass TSA security lines, offered a Father's Day discount if you purchased a one-year membership by June 21. On June 23, Clear ceased operations. Sorry, no refunds.
posted by mattdidthat (50 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
A bad idea, poorly implemented, doesn't succeed.

Now if those awful puffers can 'cease operation'. Also, if TSA would stop fucking with sniffing my son's breast milk, I'd appreciate it.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:44 PM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


This illustrates another disadvantage of outsourcing government functions to contractors. Can you imagine if, say, the Post Office "ceased operations"?
posted by exogenous at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


LOL
posted by Mister_A at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2009


Also, if TSA would stop fucking with sniffing my son's breast milk, I'd appreciate it.

Your son lactates?
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2009 [24 favorites]


Firstly: Good, fuck them.
Secondly, they're a private company and they don't appear to be bankrupt. Perhaps a class-action suit is in order?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


If the well-to-do have to wait in line like the rest of us slobs, maybe something positive will happen to the security process. One can dream.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Clear was the kind of product where there was a clear (ha ha) disconnect between the cost and the price the market was willing to bear. Those Clear booths were fancy-looking and always staffed. They probably paid the airports a fairly high rent to set up shop. But they charged less than $200 a year. I read that they had 135K subscribers so at $200 a pop that's... $27 million dollars a year? Holy shit. How the fuck did they burn that plus a hundred million of investor cash? What a debacle.

Also, two links in the post to MeFi? Seems... padding-ish.
posted by GuyZero at 12:49 PM on June 23, 2009


kinda newsfiltery but the sheer justice of this evolution prompted desires to post it.

Back in line, suckers

Orange County is still on track to turn HOV lanes to toll lanes, but at least that idiocy is localized to that insane place.
posted by @troy at 12:49 PM on June 23, 2009


The real well-to-do fly private planes or, ahem, government ones. This is just for upper proles.
posted by codswallop at 12:50 PM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think a Nelson "Haw-Haw!" is appropriate right about now.

Man that's classy. Huge sale! (Although a $30GC to Brooks Brothers? ...Right then) Oops, out of business. Thanks for the cash suckers!
posted by Talanvor at 12:51 PM on June 23, 2009


I want to be the first in thread to officially blame Obama.

The 'bammer has done us a terrible wrong.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 12:51 PM on June 23, 2009


If the well-to-do have to wait in line like the rest of us slobs

I'm not so sure I want those high-maintenance yahoos and their toy dogs clogging up the line any further...
posted by mkultra at 12:52 PM on June 23, 2009


Wait, CNet sez: "Despite pulling in 260,000 travelers at $199 each, Clear's expedited security-clearance program in 18 airports has shut down."

$52 Million? And they shut down? It cost them more than $2.6M annually to operate at each airport?

Steven Brill, you suck at business.
posted by GuyZero at 12:52 PM on June 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also, CNet said 18 airports but I read elsewhere it was 20, so that was the figure I used there for those who are going to double-check my math there.
posted by GuyZero at 12:54 PM on June 23, 2009


For only $199/yr I will give you the right to read my Metafilter comments as soon as someone posts something, thus saving you time waiting for me to write them.
posted by chasing at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


SinisterPurpose: "I want to be the first in thread to officially blame Obama."

I knew I should have waited to go to lunch.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:00 PM on June 23, 2009


It's like what happens when you buy music or software protected by DRM and the company vanishes or stops supporting it, leaving you with a bunch of expensive but useless bits of data.

But in real life, and without ever actually selling data as a product.

Apparently Steven Brill doesn't suck at business. I would argue that by all standards he's very good at it. He managed to sell a whole lot of hot air in an ambient environment that was already full of it, freely available.
posted by loquacious at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Now if those awful puffers can 'cease operation'.

Phew.

I misread that as 'fluffers' and was afraid that yet another of our essential freedoms had been impinged.
posted by rokusan at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ha ha.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2009


I think they missed their target audience. The people who would shell out this kind of money for a privilege pass are frequent travelers, right? Presumably, these people are also savvy and experienced enough to know when to travel to avoid the kinds of delays that Clear is supposed to get you through.

Airports have rush hours just like highways do. Avoid departing from around 7-9 am and 5-7 pm. And, you know, get to the airport more than twenty minutes before your flight leaves.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is so very delicious. Brill gets the ear of Ashcroft, sets up a model privatization program for Republicans giving them superior access to government services than us regular schlubs, then the bubble economy assplodes and there's no more money to fund the fucked enterprise.

Today is a good day.
posted by @troy at 1:06 PM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Pay money to avoid security checks" never did sound very wise to me, in the long view.
posted by rokusan at 1:06 PM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you didn;t pay the money did you, like, get invited to swim with da fishes?
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on June 23, 2009


"Pay money to avoid security checks" never did sound very wise to me, in the long view.

We beat the terrorists. We made them pay.

And they won't get a refund. Ha!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on June 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Orange County is still on track to turn HOV lanes to toll lanes, but at least that idiocy is localized to that insane place."

Nope, they're doing the same thing here in Utah.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2009


They went bankrupt, because they were amateurs. That's not how you do it.

They way you do it, is not to just get money from paying customers out there, but from the government. Contract with the government - then, you can do all the waste, fraud and abuse you want, and the government will keep paying, and paying and paying like the energizer bunny. Then, even with those fat payments, you go ahead and overcharge the government, because you know, it's security work - and any security work is sacrosanct and obligatory for wildly overcharging. Then, you move your headquarters to Dubai, and avoid paying taxes, and of those taxes you can't avoid, well, you just get a big tax break. But first! First, you should get Dick Cheney as one of your directors, with a fat consulting fee and vested stock. Then, you get all the rest, plus, this being security, you get side benefits like free water-boarding stations at every airport, operated by outsourced personnel of course, and complimentary NSA wiretaps. Now, you're talking business!
posted by VikingSword at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Presumably, these people are also savvy and experienced enough to know when to travel to avoid the kinds of delays that Clear is supposed to get you through.

Part of Clear's problem, in fairness to Brill, is that since the vast majority of people don't go through Clear airports were working towards expediting the regular security process. I flew this weekend and security was as fast as I've ever seen it. It took airports a few years to get enough machines in place and to figure out where the heck to put everything but ultimately the airports were working to give Clear's "product" away for free. And it's always tough to beat free.
posted by GuyZero at 1:18 PM on June 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I want to be the first in thread to officially blame Obama.

The 'bammer has done us a terrible wrong.


Whoa, hey now, the Bammer had nothing to do with this!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:21 PM on June 23, 2009


Also, if TSA would stop fucking with sniffing my son's breast milk, I'd appreciate it.

Weird. I've flown with my kids twice since they were born. On all four trips through security, I had full bottles in their diaper bag and tupperwear filled with the kids' pureéd meals. No one cared. TSA agents searched the bag and left the bottles and containers alone. No questions.

On the other hand, they made me remove both kids from their car seats and take off everyone's shoes. Not such an easy feat when you have to collapse a car seat, (a two-handed job,) put it in the x-ray machine and try to keep an inquisitive toddler from wandering aimlessly away at the same time.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2009


"Orange County is still on track to turn HOV lanes to toll lanes, but at least that idiocy is localized to that insane place."

shouldn't we be turning all the highways into toll roads, but exempting vehicles in the HOV lanes? i think something like that would be closer to a step in the right direction...
posted by winston smith at 1:38 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Clear might have made sense if (a) the security lines were as bad as they were 5 or so years ago [as GuyZero says, most airports have finally figured out to reconfigure things for the new system and it's much smoother], and (b) it actually made it significantly faster, instead of just getting you a new line (perhaps some sort of simple biometric identification and you're on your way --- after all the whole point is you are a "trusted" traveler. of course there are many problems with this, which is why it never happened).

To a frequent traveler, this could have been as little as $2/flight (if you flew twice a week, which many people I know do), so the price was hardly the issue, it was simply that there was almost no reason to do it at all, might as well use the $2 for half a coffee at Starbucks or something/
posted by wildcrdj at 1:47 PM on June 23, 2009


shouldn't we be turning all the highways into toll roads, but exempting vehicles in the HOV lanes? i think something like that would be closer to a step in the right direction...

I'm cool with that, and I am also cool with raising the 9/11 fee such that all passengers get a free run through security like Clear. My objection is to two-tiered access to the commons / common carriers.
posted by @troy at 2:01 PM on June 23, 2009


The problem with the Clear model was the whole trusted/registered traveler program. The pre-screening served no real purpose, since the Clear passengers were still subjected to the same security process as everyone else; they just got a faster line. In fact, Bruce Schneier argued that the background check was an actively bad thing because it gave would-be bad guys a way to verify that the authorities weren't on to them yet.

So that leaves Clear membership with one benefit: paying for a separate, presumably shorter, line. If they had dispensed with the registration claptrap and instead had people either buy membership cards or even pay cash at the line for the privilege of using the shorter line, they could've attracted a much larger customer base. Think of it: you're in a rush, so you pay $5 and use the Clear line. As the Clear lines start getting long, you add more lines. Once you can't add more lines, you start price discrimination: the Clear Silver line, the Clear Gold line, etc.

Of course, the airlines were smart enough to seize on this, which is why at most airports you can skip part of the line if you're flying first class or have elite frequent flier status. Even Southwest has started doing it, at least here in St. Louis.
posted by jedicus at 2:19 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, I got pestered in a security line yesterday to join this stupid program.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:25 PM on June 23, 2009


The people who would shell out this kind of money for a privilege pass are frequent travelers, right? Presumably, these people are also savvy and experienced enough to know when to travel to avoid the kinds of delays that Clear is supposed to get you through.

If you ask me, the real killer was that very frequent travelers -- their target audience -- generally already had access to elite security lines that cut wait times to a minimum. Some airports don't have elite-level security lanes, or are slow even in those lanes ... but most of those didn't have Clear either.

Put another way: I travel a lot, but I can't remember the last time I had to wait more than a few minutes to get through security at an airport where Clear would have let me avoid that wait.
posted by chalkbored at 2:27 PM on June 23, 2009


TSA is a freaking Orwellian joke, under the Obama administration no less -- so far -- than under the Bush administration regime. The "terrorists" (quiver quiver, please save me!!!) won the day TSA was created and Americans had to start paying in lost man hours and personal dignity for the security theater after-dinner show we now go through every time we fly. Devilstower (of Daily Kos) wrote a pretty good post about the stupidity -- absolute stupidity -- of the "remove your shoes" bullshit (including a great line about keeping Tinactin in business) here. And for those who missed it, there's some recent audio (I know, obnoxious Fox News clip on YouTube, sorry) of a TSA goon harassing and intimidating a libertarian activist (dumb to harass people who carry pocket constitutions) for having a perfectly legal amount of cash with him on a domestic flight. (This has not gotten near the coverage it deserves; it's appalling.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again as someone who flies roughly once every two weeks: TSA employees are out of fucking control, poorly educated thugs with no sense of professionalism or commitment to higher principles. Many of them, at least, seem drunk on finally having some power in the world to intimidate people with their capricious and aggressive attitudes. I've met very few who were not only rude, but aggressively rude with no provocation if they interacted with passengers at all. Most of them have only high school diplomas, some of them have criminal records, almost all of them are thuggish bullies in my experience -- maybe it's the culture of the organization. I've seen them harass and intimidate little old ladies who forgot they had a bottle of hairspray in their carryons, reduce little kids to tears and smile about it, and worse.

We bitch and moan about how Iran and other countries are denying their citizens freedom in the name of security. Yet we have tolerated the rapid dissolution of our own in the name of a completely pathetic fearfulness that shames the American legacy of civil rights over a completely exaggerated threat seized upon by the government to make us act like sheep. Even with Bush gone, the state security apparatus we've enabled chugs on and keeps growing and is completely without oversight. That Nokia/Siemens technology used by the Mullahs to catch protesters who send video abroad was developed for the US government to spy on its own citizens, so who's really the totalitarian state here?

The more I see of this, the more I am a complete convert to the NRA position on the right to keep and bear arms. The libertarians (and some on the far left and far right as well) are wacko about a lot of stuff, but not about the steady erosion of our civil rights to privacy and dignity, and about the purposeful way the US government has gone about reducing our consciousness of those rights, by stoking our fear of the consequences of freedom for "security."

Give me liberty. I'll take a chance on death; I believe it's my right as an American to make that choice. We seem to have simply forgotten this since NineEleven(TM).

Oh, but hey, did you hear Jon and Kate are divorcing? Never mind my rights. I need to get to a TV fast. All is well here in the Homeland, citizen.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:31 PM on June 23, 2009 [23 favorites]


Now if those awful puffers can 'cease operation'.

It IS your lucky day. TSA To Phase Out 'Puffer' Machines.
posted by smackfu at 2:40 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, the TSA is also quietly phasing in the Nudity Scanners to make sure there are no terrorists hiding in your genitals.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Does the TSA still insist on falsely calling its employees "officers"?
posted by oaf at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2009


So that explains why I saw a Faux News reporter standing in front of the shut down Clear lane at the Atlanta airport this morning.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:16 PM on June 23, 2009


Orange County is still on track to turn HOV lanes to toll lanes, but at least that idiocy is localized to that insane place.

Huston has entire raised highway jutting from the median, which you have to pay to drive on. Fucking republicans.
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on June 23, 2009


I've said it before and I'll say it again as someone who flies roughly once every two weeks: TSA employees are out of fucking control, poorly educated thugs with no sense of professionalism or commitment to higher principles.

TSA Gagstas.
posted by delmoi at 5:05 PM on June 23, 2009


Some Clear customers appreciated both the service and the privacy/morality concerns.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:00 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the well-to-do have to wait in line like the rest of us slobs, maybe something positive will happen to the security process. One can dream.

The well-to-do fly GenAv, and avoid all the security bullshit.

Until people actually decide that they've had enough and simply stop flying, nothing is going to change.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:34 PM on June 23, 2009


It's nice to know that there's a list in existence of 260,000 people who don't believe in democratically waiting their turn.

Because the rest of us should know just who it is in our nation who doesn't believe in core American values.

(Of course, it IS hilarious that these folks got robbed. It's a start.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:31 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's nice to know that there's a list in existence of 260,000 people who don't believe in democratically waiting their turn.

Have you been to an airport? No one believes in waiting their turn. Also, frequent flier programs, free upgrades and comfy FF lounges.

Airports are the most blatant display of Americans' class aspirations ever created.
posted by GuyZero at 9:36 PM on June 23, 2009


It's not a class if anyone can pay their way in.
posted by smackfu at 5:39 AM on June 24, 2009


Because the rest of us should know just who it is in our nation who doesn't believe in core American values.

The absolute stupidest thing on Metafilter. Ever.

Maybe we should start publishing votes, too.
posted by jock@law at 5:43 AM on June 24, 2009


Orange County is still on track to turn HOV lanes to toll lanes, but at least that idiocy is localized to that insane place.

In DC we're getting HOT lanes.
posted by jermsplan at 9:54 AM on June 24, 2009


It's nice to know that there's a list in existence of 260,000 people who don't believe in democratically waiting their turn. … Because the rest of us should know just who it is in our nation who doesn't believe in core American values.

*snort*

The core metaphor of America is the auction, not the queue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:22 PM on June 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


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