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A Tale from the TSA: Therese Garner

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Therese Garner

Service Excellence & Guest Experience

4xi Global Consulting & Solutions

Once people know what I do for work, the most frequently asked question is, “Don’t you hate all the travel/airports/planes?” … My response typically goes something like this: “I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what I do and because I’m so passionate about it, once I’m wheels up or wheels down, whatever negative experiences I may have had pretty much fall by the wayside”…

So, here’s the “rub” of it: I jet all over the country teaching people how to “deliver exemplary guest service.” I have spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry, which means that I can spot great service and poor service almost immediately, and I don’t hesitate to call out either when I see them! The people that know me best would also tell you that I often can be heard saying that all of my experiences are just fodder for the next great training session!

Having said this, were I to have to choose, I would tell you the one thing that rarely seems NOT to frustrate me is the TSA experience! I get that they have a serious job to do, but I also know that they get paid well to do it, so they should be happy in their roles as TSA Agents and pleasant to (at best) the majority of the passengers that pass by them!

Now, having said this, I could tell you several “unfortunate experiences” that I have encountered passing through the TSA, but instead, I prefer to share the rarity that I experienced and that I have been sharing with people attending my training sessions for the past three years:

As I said earlier, the TSA experience can be unpleasant… The harsh voices almost shouting, “Step forward,” “Don’t step back,” Don’t take items out of your bag,” “Take your shoes off,” “Leave your shoes on”… All of you who travel frequently are probably nodding your heads vigorously right now as you know EXACTLY what I mean.

So here’s how it went at about 3:30 AM on a very cold morning when I was heading from Boston to Colorado… The line wasn’t too terribly long, but it was steady. As I got closer to the TSA Agent, a family of three was in front of me. The Agent, as she was helping them along, took the time to acknowledge me and let me know that she would be right with me. (KUDOS!!)

When it was my turn, she greeted me very pleasantly, asked if I was traveling for business or pleasure, was I going someplace warm… (WINNING!) Completely engaging!

She asked if I was traveling with any children and when I told her, “No, I’m traveling for work,” she pulled out a gold, foil Jr. Air Marshall sticker and said, “Keep this with you in case you are sat next to a rambunctious child. They love these, and it will do the trick”!

When she asked me if there was anything else she could do for me, I said, “I wish I could put you right in my luggage and take you with me! You really know customer service, which is a rarity in the TSA Agents I usually encounter”! She cocked her head and whispered while winking at me, “Some people just shouldn’t work with the public. Have a great trip!”

"WOW!! Right?! She certainly got my trip off to a great start, and that is why I will continue to share this story in my training until the sticker wears out and beyond!"

The bottom line here in this TSA Tale is, “If people in hospitality could remember how important/impactful and game-changing their words and actions can be, the positive experiences would be exponential!

So, when you think of your particular lines of business, ask yourself,

“What areas of improvement are top of mind? What impressions do you want to leave on your clients, guests, and customers that will make them look forward to a return visit?”
  • Be mindful of the basics of service, but think about those unexpected services that will surprise and delight

  • Empower your teams to create seamless resolutions to problems/issues that arise.

  • Make sure that your team feels valued so that they will, in turn, value the clients/guests/customers.

These are just a few tips to get your teams headed in a direction that can take service to the next level.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts! Until next time…

Leading with heart from the start

Check out Therese's Bio here, and learn more about 4xi's Evolving Experiences and the work we do in Employee (EX) and Customer Experience (CX):


4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side, impacting the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.

We believe in a people-first, experience-led philosophy. Whether client, employee, or guest – their experience is the fundamental foundation of success.

We work with corporations, service providers, and innovators:

  • Strategic Advisory & Special Projects (SPx)

  • Headquarters Fractional Support On-Demand

  • Evolving Experiences© - Employee (EX) & Customer Experience (CX)

  • Design4Life©: Environmental, Physical, and Experiential Design

  • Global Amenities Strategy, Design & Operations

  • TRUE NORTH©: Strategic Partnership & Growth

  • Explorers Innovation Directory: Gateway to Innovation

  • Sustainability Simplified©: Supply Chain & Innovation

  • Market Research Reports & Benchmarking


4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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1 Comment

Dina Wiltshire
Dina Wiltshire
Sep 22, 2022

What a great story. Out of the stress arose a beautiful moment. Hope to read more from you Therese. Wonderful learning!

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