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The truth about Duty-Free Shopping

How to stop spending money at Duty-Free Shops just because you are bored

Kide makeup


At KIND HUMANKIND we believe that when it comes to fashion, sustainability is no longer a nice to have – it is a must-do. But it in order to be able to achieve meaningful change in the industry, first we need to know what is wrong with the industry and how ta hell did we get here. The most honest truth I can find in my heart after much industry research and even some soul searching is that we are both equally at fault – the consumer and fashion companies. We have been living in a world of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and it’s about time that the truth comes out of the closet.

For far too long the lack of interest from the part of the consumer combined with the lack of transparency from the part of fashion brands have created the perfect environment for corporate greed to thrive, whilst major fashion brands have profited from exploiting the most vulnerable and impoverished individuals as well as the environment. Consumers do have a responsibility, but to be quite honest here, the marketing strategies of most old-school fashion brands are purposely designed to leave the consumer in the dark. As someone who has been part of the fashion industry as a researcher, employee and consumer I confess that it has taken me over ten years to become ‘fashion-brand-marketing-strategy-proof’.

It’s only been a year that I can wait for my flight at the airport without spending a cent in the Duty-Free Shop. That’s my struggle, fighting one impulse-buy urge at the time. And speaking of Duty-Free, here is one secret about the fashion industry that most people don’t know: Did you know that LVMH owns all of the Duty-Free Shops? Yep, they are practically a mafia that comes up with the most brilliant strategies to get you to buy luxury branded inexpensive trinkets you don’t need just because you are bored. Of course, not all Duty-Free Shop buys are evil, they can be a great source of convenience in case you need an extra piece of luggage or a gift for example. Impulse buy strategies are brilliant and they work wonders for the brands, but perhaps not so much for you if you have credit card debt or if like me, you are trying to save money to buy a house.

So it takes some time to deprogram and try to see the invisible consumerism shackles that these brands have slapped on us. If you would like to avoid giving in to temptation, here are six powerful strategies to help you deal with Duty-Free impulse-buy urges.

1. Find out how much the Duty actually is
The duty discount can vary from country to country. In America, this variance can be anywhere from 7% – 33%. In Australia, the duty (the GST) is 10%. But some countries like in Dubai for example, there is no duty; so technically you don’t get any discount at all. On the other hand, buying duty-free products in Brazil is never a good idea since import taxes are so ridiculously high that people may consider flying themselves to Miami just to buy perfumes. In the past, when duty-free shops were more independently owned, consumers were able to save money by not paying a portion of taxes, but keep in mind that most products that you are buying are mass produced and distributed globally from large manufacturers to another large Duty-Free corporation. And in reality, the prices of their goods are tightly controlled that it is hard to find a considerable price variance in a luxury brand product today.

2. Get a sample
One of the greatest things about Duty-Free is that the brands know that you have time. So they work really hard on getting you to try their products. So, enjoy it, try on the perfume, then the makeup and the headphones and if you are lucky before you know it is time for you to go. Sample it first and take some home if you can. If by the time you get home you are still excited about the product you can buy it online. Don’t forget that we usually look extra hot under the professional illumination of the shop, but remember you are only buying the product the lighting doesn’t come with it.

3. Find out if the product is cheaper online
One of the key elements in an impulse buy is that the consumer must have a sense of urgency, either due to shortage or offer. Let me make something very clear here, neither is the case when it comes to Duty-Free shops. There is no shortage of anything in a Duty-Free shop because it is mostly all massed produced goods and in days of Amazon and Strawberrynet, it is most likely that you will be able to find a better offer online. Not to mention that you might also be able to find online reviews about the product instead of having to rely on the sales assistant spill.

4. Handle the shop assistant
Did you know that most women end up buying stuff they don’t need because they don’t know how to say no or because they don’t want to be rude? Yes, and if this rings the bell for you, its time you learn how to respectfully handle the shop assistant yourself instead of letting the shop assistant handle you. I have a lot of respect for sales assistants and I know that most of them are highly trained employees with amazing people skills. The spill they give you about the products they are trying to sell you is a part of a multimillion marketing strategy designed to not let you walk away empty-handed. So let’s give them a round for their money. Don’t walk away empty-handed – ask for the sample!

5. Think about your bathroom cabinet
It is bad Fang Shui to have a clutter of old unfinished beauty products in your bathroom cabinets. Not to mention that is not good for your skin to use old cosmetics. Your bathroom cabinet should look neat and your cosmetics should be fresh. If like me, you are the person who cleans your own bathroom, I am here to remind you how time wasteful it is to have to get every single little jar out of there and then put it back in again. And if like me you have a tendency to overly visually merchandise your own life, add in some extra wasted time making sure that all those little jars look pretty all together inside your cabinet. So, simplify your life and be efficient with your time.

6. Consider the exchange rate and banking charges
If after careful consideration of all of the strategies listed above you have still managed to convince yourself to buy something at the Duty-Free shop, there is still one more thing you need to do. Check the exchange rate for your purchase and make sure to know if there are any extra international fees charged by your credit card or bank. The variance in the exchange rate combined with your international transaction fees might not make the thrill of succumbing to that impulse-buy worth your while.

Remember that conscious consumerism is essentially shopping with mindfulness. Actually, conscious consumerism is about shopping rationally. Because It’s about time that we learn that it is not the perfect dress, the perfect fragrance nor the perfect shade of foundation that is going to solve all of our problems. Life is not about what dress we wear to the party. Life is about enjoying the party.

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