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Traveling Abroad: What’s in Store for You?

Written by  Professor Barry Goldsmith

The only thing I like less than airport security is shopping.
Here are my painless shopping rules:

1. Buy something made in the country you’re visiting and not available online.

2. Buy something that’s really needed or really liked. During my first visit to Vienna the guidebooks recommended buying a Viennese specialty - petite pointe. If you have to look up what “petite pointe” is - don’t buy it!

3. Don’t buy from hawking touts, as in Athens’ jewelry stores in the Plaka district- especially from touts wearing solid-gold Rolexes instead of the watches they sell in their stores. Never buy at a store your guide brings you to. Why pay for your guide’s next vacation instead of yours?

4. Tailoring is no longer cheap in Europe or in Hong Kong. It’s still a bargain in China and India. However, make sure your tailors in China are Chinese and your tailors in India are Indian, not vice-versa. (My favorite tailor is Dave’s Shirts in Shanghai and Beijing. Dave is Chinese.)

5. Buy only if it’s a real bargain; much cheaper than you can buy online or in stores at home. I had a Gucci gift certificate, which I was waiting to use in Italy for a bargain. In the States, men’s Gucci classic loafers were $545. At the Milan Airport Duty Free they were also 545 - Euros - which (then) was another $40. On my first trip to Italy Gucci shoes were 40% less in Italy. (But then I was a kid, and my foot was 40% smaller.)

6. Avoid Airport Duty Free shopping. I haven’t bought anything at airport duty free since 1995 when Marie-Chantal Miller (daughter of Robert Miller, the owner of Duty Free airport stores around the world) married Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece in an $8,000,000 wedding.

7. Some airports cheat by locating shops between immigration and the gate. When forced to travel through duty free, just keep thinking, “I will not pay for the weddings of Robert Miller’s grandchildren.”

8. When you do go shopping do it after museums, palaces, and churches close. Stores are usually open later.

9. Disregard number 8 if you’re already in a museum, palace, or church gift shop.

10. Inflight Duty Free. It’s good to know you can always buy last-minute gifts from the plane’s Inflight Duty Free Shopping, gifts your friends back in the States will treasure, such as Bulova watches, Godiva chocolate, and Estee Lauder colognes. Norwegian Airlines has the best blankets in business class. British Airways has great coffee mugs. Air France has great Baccarat salt & pepper shakers. Why not sell those unique products actually used inflight on inflight shopping? (Then, maybe no one would steal airline blankets again and deprive US customs inspectors from selling confiscated ones on eBay.)

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