Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

Cleared for rip-off

24 August 2015

You possibly thought that VAT was the only indignity visited on airport travellers.  Springfords have been looking into the dark art of departure lounge retailing.

There’s a school of thought that says an airport retailer with an ethical sales policy is about as common as a vampire with haemophobia.  Certainly the recent exposure of what’s become the ‘VAT scandal’ has shown that there are few outlets in the rarified, air-conditioned atmosphere of the departure terminal who have any fear of seeing blood when it comes to sinking their teeth into the unsuspecting traveller. 

The Independent first brought the scam to light.  The rest of the media soon scrambled a squadron of irate reporters, faster than Michael O’Leary can turn around a 737 and fly it back to Łódź for £9.99 a head, claiming it’s convenient for Tenerife.  Every one of the hacked off hacks claimed it was a blood-sucking abomination and something needed to be done about it (that’s the VAT thing, not Michael O’Leary - for once).

In truth though, are any of us acting as unsuspecting virgins, offering up our smooth unsullied neck to the bite of Count Shockshop?  The answer is probably no, even if our boarding pass says Van Helsing.  Being realistic, when was the last time you or anyone else said: “Hey, let’s go bargain shopping, we can catch that nice cheap bus to the airport and find lots of good value stuff we’d never get on the high street!”

So, it should not have come as a real surprise to find that airport retailers have been demanding your boarding pass on the implied pretence of legal and security requirements, when actually, all they have been doing is checking to see if your flight entitled them to make a claim for a VAT refund. 

Of course, not one of the journalists reporting the practice has found even a solitary retailer who then refunded that VAT back to the traveller who forked out in the first place for their wide-bodied Toblerone or “I love Terminal Five” teddy bear, complete with his own aviator goggles.

That’s not all, this is only the taxi-way of the long-haul cash call.  The lengths that airport operators go to, in collusion with retailers, to get you to their sky-side shopping malls, is astonishing.  The Sunday Times published an eye-opening graphic, and eye opening is the first tactic used to lure you in. 

Once you are through security - which an insider claims is managed mainly to regulate the flow of customers to the shops - you’ll find it easier to spot the designer outlets than the outbound departure boards as you’re ‘pinballed’ from store to store.

You’ll also have to snake your way through the concession stands - because a straight flow is a fast flow, and we can’t have that if ‘stop and shop’ is the name of the game.

Eyes right?  Yes, most of us are as right eyed as we are right handed, so you'll find most stock piled up on the right - certainly the more expensive impulse purchases.  You can mull over your pointless purchase while consuming an under measure over priced Kostalot Koffee too.

All of which should lead us to the simple conclusion.  Once you’re in a captive marketplace - don’t expect any more mercy than Dracula showed to Mina Harker.  Oh, look!  Limited edition Kurt Cobain aftershave. Where’s my boarding pass?

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springfords blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

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