Duty Free (or "Shopping and Calling it Research")

There is no shortage of things you can do to pass the time while waiting in an airport.  You can watch movies on your laptop, read a magazine, grab a bite at a overpriced fast-food joint or sip on a beer with other anxious travelers trying to be anywhere but the airport. And if you’re lucky, you can relax the time away in a VIP airline club. Or…you can go…


To be honest, at home I’m not a huge shopper. When you spend most of your money on travels, having a shopping habit can be detrimental to your “seeing the world” budget. But somehow when I’m overseas, I get tempted by things I can’t get at home and the adventure of bartering when you don’t know the language. And with airport/airplane shopping you get the added bonus of “duty free”.  And in my book, if you put the word “free” near the word shopping, its a win-win situation!

I don’t always shop, but when I do…it’s duty free.

It all started back in 2000/2001 when I was living in London and a fellow expat told me told me how much she liked to fly internationally because it gave her a chance to stock up on her favorite perfumes in the duty free shops. I don’t know why that triggered something inside of me, but for the rest of the time in the UK, every time I flew home I had to buy a new bottle of perfume. Something I wanted that was not terribly expensive AND there was no duty!  
Wait!… What the hell is duty anyway? According to dictionary.com: a specific or ad valorem tax imposed by law on the import or export of goods. 

And even after I reluctantly packed up my bags and left London, I still kept the habit of trolling the perfume aisles of the airport duty free shops and flipping through the in flight shopping guide.  It took me a few years, but eventually I began to wonder…am I truly saving any money? Or are the manufacturers, airports and airlines just taking advantage of us travelers? A captured audience with foreign currency to get rid of.

So over the last year, I decided to do a little informal research. Every time I was in an airport or on an international flight, I whipped out my trusty notebook and took note of prices. I also tried to get prices at local High Street shops to compare. Unfortunately, I had to dispose of some of my research because it was getting dated, plus they stopped making the perfume I was using to compare prices. 

The standard perfume I used to compare prices was J’adore by Christian Dior in the 100ml size, both Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette. I chose it not because it is my favorite perfume (it’s not) but because I can find it in just about any country so it is easy to compare.
Comparison shopping with Dior
So what did I find? Do duty free prices differ from airport to airport? And is it cheaper than buying from regular department stores?  Check out my next post for my findings.

(insert cliffhanger music…dun, dun, DUUUUUNNN!)


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