Duty Free Curiosity

Landing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I have about four hours to kill between flights, so after having a quick bite, I wandered around the “lounges”, an atmosphere which is more shopping-mall than airport.  It got me to thinking about airports in general.  I’ve seen my fair share of airports around the world, and they have always fascinated me.  Everyone in the airport is going somewhere, and here in Schiphol, a major hub between Africa, Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, the  diversity of our world is prominently on display.

African women, with their vibrantly coloured flowing dresses, stand next to Sikh men in colourful turbans and mischievous blonde haired, blue eyed Dutch children. A group of chinese tourists in matching green baseball caps rush past me, following their leader with holding a pointer with a green ribbon, and bleary eyed teenagers on their first backpacking trip across Europe stand bewildered looking for the passport control.

In duty free shoppes around the world, one would have no trouble finding perfume, liquor, cigarettes and chocolate (among other items, but these are the most common).  What is so special about these particular items, that make them the items people most want at Duty free shops?  Alcohol and cigarettes, ok I can see – they are usually heavily taxed.  But what is so special about perfume and chocolate?

Many airports have started catering to their customers and are providing more mainstream retail services.  As I write this, I am indulging in a foot massage at the Xpres Spa at the airport…  what a brilliant idea!   UK airports also usually have Boots pharmacies on the secure side.  How many times have you passed through security, and were wandering and thought “OH I forgot to pack XYZ!” A quick trip to the pharmacy would resolve that.  I wish Pearson would shape up and bring a Shoppers Drug Mart in.

Unfortunately, due to the “captive” audience (and yes, we technically are captive, behind the secure airport lines), the prices at airports are ridiculous.  Who wants to pay €20 for a McDonald’s meal? or €4 for a bottle of coke.  Well, now that we can’t bring anything more that 100mL through security, I guess we have to.

So, my ramblings continue…. as I wait another couple of hours for my flight to Kigali.


One thought on “Duty Free Curiosity”

  1. I have to agree that airports around the worls carry an odd and similar selection of goods. It is a great place to people watch. Nearly all are out of their element, searching like rats looking for their gate. If you are looking for a social research study one should consider the airport.

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