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The bitter truth behind sticky-tape wrapped luggage headed for Vietnam

Friday, May 12, 2017, 16:48 GMT+7

Should you come across luggage wrapped with sticky tape on a baggage carousel, chances are it is bound for Vietnam.

Kim Van, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reader, recalls how she learned to protect her luggage from being rummaged through by screeners when traveling home to Vietnam – a revelation that Vietnamese have lost faith in airport services.

Vietnamese want to keep their luggage safe, but many feel being forced to resort to the ‘sticky tape method’ is a kick in the gut.

The opinion in this article is the author's own and does not necessarily reflect the view of Tuoi Tre.

The talking luggage

I was recently on a trip to Japan when I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to buy new luggage.

She advised me to look for models with an invisible zipper, “so ‘they’ won’t be able to cut the zipper and steal any valuables.”

I know by saying ‘they’, my friend was referring to the airport baggage screeners in Vietnam.

My friend then illustrated how secure suitcases with invisible zippers are by showing me on her bags that the zipper is hidden once the case is closed.

“This is the only way to prevent ‘them’ from cutting the zipper,” she said, once again using an oblique reference to airport luggage handlers.

In the end, I was unable to find any luggage with this crucial criterion.

7c8faddb.jpgA man checks screened luggage at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi in this photo lllustration.

On our last day in Japan, I started to pack the tax-free goods I had bought in into my old, traditional zipper, luggage.

While doing the same, my friend, to my surprise, pulled out a large roll of sticky tape from nowhere (I bet she brought it from Vietnam) and began to wrap it around her suitcase.

“Now I challenge ‘them’ to cut into my luggage,” she said, proudly showcasing her ‘work’.

She wasn’t the only one.  Other people on my Japan tour just followed suit.  In just a matter of seconds, the entire roll of tape was gone!

My friend offered to do the same with my luggage.  I tried to tell her that I wasn’t sure it was necessary because I had locks on my bags. 

She told me that such security never works, telling me about a time she had two bottles of wine stolen from her checked baggage and “could do nothing but complain on Facebook.”

Another member in the group said she had the same experience, adding that complaining to the luggage screeners is never any help.

I eventually agreed to have my suitcase plastered in sticky tape!

Losing faith

I used to believe that reports of luggage being stolen when entering Vietnam were only unexpected accidents.

Now, after seeing so many of my companions being so serious about wrapping their luggage, I think I may have been wrong.

A passenger (L) reports her luggage being cut off upon arriving at Tan Son Nhat airport in June 2015.

Authorities have repeatedly committed to tightening checks in the luggage sections of Vietnam’s airports, but reports of luggage theft don’t seem to be stopping, forcing home-bound Vietnamese to resort to the ‘sticky tape method’.

I’m not concerned over the effectives of wrapping bags with tape, but rather with the fact that it is an issue travelers in Vietnam must think about at all.

It hurts seeing that people have lost so much faith in security personnel at Vietnam’s airports.

Why must people switch to ‘alarm mode’, as if thieves are all around, whenever they come to Vietnam?

It shouldn’t be so easy to figure out that luggage wrapped in a tangle of stick tape is destined for nowhere but a certain Vietnamese airport.

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Kim Van


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