plastic shopping bag
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The Mistrust of Security Procedures and Protocol — One Possible Reason

I  was invited to watch the Atlanta Braves take on the New York Mets at SunTrust Park in Atlanta last night by a friend who has season tickets. On our way to the stadium after he parked the car, he was carrying a bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit — as well as a plastic bottle of water — in a plastic shopping bag typically found in a supermarket when he spontaneously decided to stop at a fast food restaurant to pick up a couple of hot chicken sandwiches.

The Mistrust of Security Procedures and Protocol — One Possible Reason

We passed through the metal detectors at the security checkpoint of the ballpark with no problem when an employee rushed up to my friend and outright demanded him to open his shopping bag to view the contents.

Please?!?” he responded as he stared at her incredulously — as though he was properly completing her request with the implication of not being rude and impolite.

She looked through the shopping bag and told him that he cannot bring the contents of his shopping bag into the stadium unless they were stored in a clear plastic bag — supposedly similar to the one needed to transport liquids through the security checkpoints of airports.

Annoyed, my friend was in disbelief that he would not be able to enjoy his dinner while watching the baseball game and started to complain to her when a man walked over to intervene. He was apparently a supervisor of the security staff who tried to calm down my friend by explaining that the policy was a general one and — long story short — he can proceed into the ballpark with his food and water in the shopping bag.

The Official Security Rules at SunTrust Park

After the game in which the New York Mets lost to the Atlanta Braves 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, I looked up the official security rules at SunTrust Park:

The following items are prohibited from being brought into SunTrust Park: alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs; aluminum cans, glass bottles, bota bags or wineskins; bags, purses or backpacks exceeding 16″x16″x8″; ice chests or hard sided coolers; camera lenses exceeding 5 inches; camera tri, dual or single leg pods by non-media personnel; folding chairs, tables, stools or devices used as such; sticks, clubs (including signs attached to sticks) or full size brooms; fireworks, firearms or other weapons (including knives, mace, pepper spray, tasers/stun guns and toy replicas of weapons); bullhorns, noise makers or confetti; laser devices or pointers; skateboards, hoverboards and rollerblades; Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; framed or oversized backpacks; and balloons, beachballs and other inflatable items; wrapped packages wherein the contents are not visible.*

Outside food is allowed inside of SunTrust Park as long as it fits inside a clear, gallon sized plastic bag. Guests may also bring a sealed plastic bottle of water. One bag of food and one bottle of water per ticket will be permitted. Additional considerations will be made for those with dietary concerns and infants. All bags of food will be subject to additional inspection at our security gates before entry.


Let me first say that the incident would have most likely have been avoided had my friend simply complied with the official security policies of SunTrust Park and had a clear, gallon sized plastic bag kept with him — perhaps in his car or in his pocket — to store his food prior to entering the stadium. I am not absolving him of his responsibility, as finding them on the Internet only took me seconds.

To mitigate tragic incidents — such as the one last year at the airport in Brussels where 34 people were killed and at least 270 others were injured and the mass murder in Orlando at a gay nightclub as two of many examples — from occurring, security policies unfortunately need to be in place to ensure the safety of patrons at locations where thousands of people congregate. That includes stadiums where sporting events and concerts occur.

When security protocols are put in place, they can be interpreted as a restriction of our freedom to move about — all in the name of our safety. Sometimes this is the equivalent of being told “no” by a parent without having the reason why specifically explained, as it seems unfair: “…because I said so.” I get the argument that people knowing all of the details as to why security policies are implemented can be a greater threat to our safety…

…but as a bystander and witness to this incident, the woman who approached my friend may have done exactly what she was supposed to do; but the problem I personally had with the incident was the way she approached him and handled it in general. It was clearly a power trip in which she presumed him guilty until proven innocent — similar to the actions of some agents of the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints.

What the female employee should have done was approached my friend in a less aggressive manner and asked if she could please quickly review the contents of his shopping bag. He most likely would have complied by opening the bag. She could have responded by saying that normally he would need to store his food in a plastic bag and to please remember that for next time.

The combination of not knowing all of the reasons for more restrictive security and having some people who are charged with ensuring protocols are followed embark on unnecessary power trips fosters distrust in the system in general, in my opinion — especially when the original policy was supposed to be that no outside food would be permitted at all, according to this article written by Ligaya Figuera of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Beginning this season, ticketholders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items, according to a Braves spokesperson.

If one did not know any better, one might think that these security policies and procedures are more in place to better ensure that patrons pay $12.00 for three small tacos and $5.75 for a bottle of their favorite soft drink rather than for their safety — not that the cost of admission to the ballpark and to park a vehicle is not expensive enough to line the pockets of executives of a multibillion dollar organization…

…but that would be the erroneous conclusion of a mistrusting mind — right?!?

Effective security — whether at an airport or a stadium — begins with treating people with civility and respect. Anything less breeds mistrust, in my opinion.

Frankly, I believe that the chicken sandwiches, nuts and dried fruit would possibly be more dangerous after my friend had digested them…

This shopping bag is identical to the one involved in the incident. No shopping bags were harmed, injured or abused in any way whatsoever in the composition of this article. Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I guess the title “My Friend Has Season Tickets But Amazingly Claimed To Not Know What Every Other Sporting Event Attendee Knows So He Bullied His Way Into The Stadium” was deemed too long? I understand what you’re trying to say here but whenever I hear someone complain about a service/security staff member being rude, I always wonder who really was the first to show bad manners.

    1. In this case, HoustonRobert, she was the first to show bad manners…

      …but then again, why believe me?!?

      1. I really enjoy your blog and only you were there as a witness, but which phrase did your friend use first (and most often) – “I’m sorry” or “I’m a season ticket holder”? Judging by the way he “stared at her incredulously” and was “annoyed”, a reader would be inclined to believe the latter although the former would have likely calmed the situation.

        1. You raise a good point, HoustonRobert — and, probably, simultaneously exposed a foible of human behavior in general.

          I think that we tend to use status, loyalty or spend at one time or another in an attempt at a persuasive argument to emphasize the reason of why the outcome of a dispute should be resolved in our favor: “I am a Diamond member” or “I have been a customer for 35 years” or “I have purchased thousands of dollars of your product or service in the past” as three of many derivatives of “Do you know who I am?” — and some of us tend to use it more than others. Perhaps one reason might be as a justification to convince the entity with whom we have the dispute that we are vital to their concerns in one way or another as the result of what feels like a dog-eat-dog world out there.

          I will say that family members, friends, colleagues and people in the travel industry who know me know that I generally pull no punches when I express my thoughts and opinions of how I feel — and my friend in this situation would have heard it from me if I thought he was blatantly wrong; and the article would have been written differently as such. Although he could have handled the situation better as indicated in the article, I have to admit that I was also initially put off by her behavior as well — I just did not express it because I was not involved in the incident other than being a witness to it.

  2. So she didn’t kiss his ass….as you’re accustomed to by airline employees who pretend to like you?

    1. I do not care whether someone likes me or not, Michael. I simply prefer to be treated with respect; and I do not recall anywhere in the article where I infer to what you commented…

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