Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Duty Free Swindle

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I have always believed what my father told me. “Just because it says ‘Duty Free’ does not mean it’s Profit Free.” The Guardian has an article that shows how duty free shops in England have been pocketing much of the VAT rebate that people travelling to places outside the EU should be getting.

Practice varies in other countries, but at least many airports now offer free wifi. So if you are whiling away the time and find the Duty Free shop to be a relief from the crowded departure lounge you can at least check on prices back at BC Liquor stores of things you might want to buy. On our last trip back through Kingsford Smith (that is the name of the Sydney International Airport SYD) I was pleasantly surprised to find Australian vintage port. This, of course, is not on offer here. But it was attractively priced compared to what is – and it tastes remarkably good. Equally Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt was on sale, and at a price for one litre what we pay for 0.75 litre here.

BUT the price of a bottle of alcohol in any retail store is still mostly tax and markups of various kinds. There is some analysis on this page but it is in Euros and is a bit out of date. But the principle holds. There is a direct correlation in the mind of the consumer between quality and price: if it is that cheap, there must be something wrong with it. For many consumer items, price is used as an indicator of quality and this is also the case in Duty Free shops!

As an aside, I do want to praise YVR for changing their policy. At one time, whenever on my way to visit my family in England I was disappointed to find that the shelves in the international terminal duty free shop did not carry BC wines. There was Canadian wine, but it came from the Niagara region of Ontario. That is no longer the case, perhaps because enough people like me complained.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Air Travel, airport

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