What not to buy at a duty-free shop
Contrary to popular belief, duty-free shopping doesn't have to be much cheaper. In fact, if you leave aside cigarettes and alcohol, it's often a worse option than simply shopping online.
It’s easy to be tempted into a duty-free shop. You’ve got time to kill and everything’s cheaper than back home. A great deal, no matter what you buy… except that it’s not.
Particularly with the rupee as weak as it currently is, duty-free shopping isn’t the perk it’s often made out to be. A number of items sold duty-free – including perfumes, electronics and watches – are often beaten by a wide margin by our very own stores. In fact, aside from alcohol and cigarettes, which are uniformly cheaper (especially if Mumbai is home), everything else is worth doing an online price check for.
Here’s what we found:
Plain expensive: Contrary to expectations, duty-free was, on average, more expensive than retail. The unfortunate truth about duty-free shops is that they aren’t the same as discount shops. You don’t pay duty, but the retailer doesn’t have to pass on any discount to you. Whole segments of items were more expensive duty-free than on stores such as Flipkart and Jabong, as you’ll find in the following tables for perfume and sunglasses. Even as duty-free stores told us we were saving big, our online stores seemed to be able to beat them every time.
|Burberry The Beat||Rs3,250||Rs3,803||n/a||n/a||Rs4,389|
|Calvin Klein Eternity Aqua||Rs3,330||Rs4,144||n/a||Rs2,800||Rs3,827|
|Davidoff Cool Water||Rs2,640||Rs3,433||Rs2,952||Rs2,688||Rs2,800|
|Ray Ban Wayfarers||Rs5,590||n/a||Rs8,646||n/a||Rs8,009|
|Maui Jim Hookipa||Rs6,990||n/a||n/a||Rs11,200||Rs9,001|
|Emporio Armani Aviators||Rs7,899||n/a||Rs9,068||n/a||Rs10,549|
Overpriced electronics: Electronics, we thought, would be cheaper in Dubai Duty Free, given that this usually holds true for electronics in Dubai. Without duty, though, these products become more expensive (barring Apple products!; see below), with Dubai Duty Free set to benefit from a captive customer. Therefore, before buying anything here, always check the price online. We found that a smartphone from Samsung at a 32% premium over online prices at Dubai duty free.
|Galaxy S Duos||Rs12,230||Rs16,265||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|iPod Touch 5th Gen||Rs23,900||Rs18,900||n/a||Rs16,744||n/a|
|iPad 2 16GB||Rs23,800||Rs23,665||n/a||Rs21,840||n/a|
|Sony Xperia Z||Rs37,990||n/a||n/a||Rs38,050||n/a|
Still worth a look: If you’re not an impulse shopper, duty free is still worth a look, so long as you have internet access at the time. There may be a good discount just when you happen to be travelling or perhaps a particular airport just happens to offer some products at a significant discount. Apple products, for example, are available at a significant discount at both Dubai and Melbourne airports. Hunting for a deal could, therefore, yield some results, but just don’t be under the assumption that duty-free deals are always good.
*all prices as on May 20, 2013