Duty Free

On the way home, passengers at Trondheim’s international terminal are routeed right through the Duty Free store on the way to the departure gate. Having walked through this the other way, I realize the intent was that I should/would have gone through it the first time, meeting Norwegian customs at the other end after an opportunity to support the local economy. Instead, I wandered off the plane as if I were a dazed, cheapskate tourist, emerging through the domestic exit.

There were no obvious, direct savings to be had. “Duty Free” means only that you don’t pay tax (VAT or, in the U.S., sales tax) because the purchase is technically an export. You’re highly likely to see Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices prices. No one pays these unless they’re buying from a duty free store or national park concession. Also, you do not Avoid Duty at your destination. Don’t even think of buying the case of Klingon Blood Wine unless you have a family of four traveling with. Little Becky and Tommy both get an $800 USD allowance coming back, as long as they can carry a cask on their backs.

I came up with only three reasons why I would ever want to buy anything here:

1) I had extra local currency and no plan to return. I could, theoretically, exchange it back. On the way out, I received (effectively) 5NOK for each 1USD. The reverse rate would be as bad – perhaps 1USD for each 10NOK? Suddenly, paying a 25% premium in the “Duty Free” stuff doesn’t sound so bad.

2) Once ensconced within the airport safety net, the business trip is officially over. I really didn’t want to exit, find a cab, then re-navigate the gaunlet just to go to the grocery store and pick up some locally-unique items as souvenirs. Besides, with the stupid liquid container rules, people were having to dump out the bottled water, Aquavit and anchovy paste purchased in the secure zone, but not the really secure zone.

3) I’m planning to go to the Norwegian Constitution Day gala. Since hard alcohol is strictly regulated (as it is in Washington), this is my last opportunity to pick up Aquavit.

Obviously the first consideration was the most importnat.

The duty free store is good for five things: tobacco, booze, cosmetics, cheese and candy. Since I don’t smoke, rarely drink, and have no need (that I’ll admit to) for high-end cosmetics, I could cheerfully indulge my other two Euro-vices: cheese and chocolate. The 200NOK bill netted a small lump of gouda and five, 400g candy bars. The cheese was too tasty to survive the first segment home. The bars contributed nearly five pounds to my carry-on bag’s shoulder-killing mass.

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