Saturday what we’re reading: Unusual claims to fame, high-tech ID checks, VIP services


Today, we look at small-town America and some not-so-small-town’s claims to fame. We look at new machines to check IDs at the airport and glance at VIP services that may ease the hassles of airline travel.

Proud cities’ unusual claims to fame

If you dig around long enough, you’ll find that every city and town in the United States is known for something. Here’s the start of a list of of Meetings & Conventions favorites, which you can verify for yourself next time business sends you to the vicinity.

America’s Secret City: Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Barbed Wire Capital of the World: La Crosse, Kan.
(but the Birthplace of Barbed Wire is DeKalb, Ill.)
Boring Capital of the World: Las Cruces, N.M.
Cherry Pit Spitting Capital of the World: Eau Claire, Mich.
Cow Chip Capital of the World: Beaver, Okla.
Earmuff Capital of the World: Farmington, Maine
Fire Hydrant Capital of the World: Albertville, Ala.
Fruitcake Capital of the World: Claxton, Ga.
Horseradish Capital of the World: Collinsville, Ill.
Lost Luggage Capital of the World: Scottsboro, Ala.
Manhole Cover Capital of the World: Neenah, Wis.
Pretzel City, USA: Freeport, Ill.
Toilet Paper Capital of the World: Green Bay, Wis.

And, there are a lot more. If you know of any, add them in the comments.

TSA purchasing new equipment to check boarding passes for fraud
I hope TSA isn’t already spending the proposed doubling of our 9/11 airport security fees. But they have ordered 30 of these $300,000+ machines to check IDs and match them to boarding passes.

The agency said the new equipment, called Credential Authentication Technology – Boarding Pass Scanning Systems (CAT_BPSS), would improve its ability to move passengers through checkpoints and improve over all airport security.

“This technology will automatically verify passenger identification documents and boarding passes to further enhance security,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement. “This technology will help facilitate risk-based security, while making the process more effective and efficient.”

VIP Travel Services: Are the Perks Worth the Cash?

More and more travelers of means are forking over extra money for better service. Where customer service was once something that airlines pride themselves on, now they look at good customer service as a profit center for the well-heeled. But, even those in the back of the plane can pay extra to get amenities while on the ground at the airport pre- and post-travel. Sometimes that’s far more affordable than paying for a business- or first-class ticket.

These services, once used mostly by the wealthy and business executives, are becoming more popular and available to a broader section of users. They can cost as little as $125 per person but go up to more than $1,000 depending on the city and level of exclusivity. As security lines and flight delays get longer and on-board comforts disappear, everyone from road warriors to parents traveling with kids want quicker lines and better amenities than they can find at the airport food court.

“People generally have become more open to paying up to sweeten the traveling experience,” says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. “United’s Premier Travel starts at $47 per person. While we might do it grudgingly, we do find more than ever that it may be worth paying if it means priority security lines, priority boarding and five inches of extra leg room.”

Photo: Mueller Company, Albertville, Alabama.