Retail therapy is therapeutic.
As long as you have the cash, of course.
Unlike Manila, where a sale is sale of junk goods, sales in most countries is dependent on the season. The best time therefore, to travel is when it’s near a great sale. In Singapore, the great sale runs for almost two months (this year being June 08 – August 12, 2018). These sales make shopping a huge bargain, particularly for designer goods.
The HongKong shopping festival runs from June 1 to August 31, 2018 this year. Retailers offer great big discounts on fashion labels (slashed to as low as 70% off on one season late designs).
As a general rule, it is best to travel when the season is about to end. Unlike the Philippines (where there are just two seasons – the wet and the dry), most Asian countries celebrate the four seasons of the year – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. And for all countries where there are actually four seasons in the year, there are multiple sales before each season ends. When the season is about over, the sale begins.
Buying locally or international?
Let’s face it. Most of the designer items are found in the Philippines as well. But they are far more expensive than buying in another country (unless you’re buying Filipino items). For example, a LouisVuitton wallet will cost you almost P35,000 at an LV store in Makati. The same wallet will cost me 3200 Kr (around P26,310.54 inclusive of 25% VAT). Because I’m a tourist, I can avail of 25% VAT refund (about P6577.63), which means that same LV wallet I wanted in Manila will just cost me P19,732.90 in Copenhagen! It’s even cheaper if you buy it in Paris or Madrid. The P16,000 less is a steal in itself.
If you plan to travel within the year, you may want to consider buying your designer goods when you’re out of the Philippines. (I understand that there is the factor of having to pay for plane fare and hotel accommodations, but seriously, if I can afford a real LV bag and matching wallet, I can afford to fly out of the country, go on vacation in Europe, and go on a shopping spree.)
Remember, retail designer therapy is not a necessity. It is an extravagance rather than an importance.
There are people that collect just anything. From magnets from every country traveled to coffee mugs from every Starbucks each country where a Starbucks is found.
An important rule of thumb is bringing home souvenirs. As I mentioned in past blogs, you’re not obligated to bring home a little memento for everyone that knows you left. Your family tree is also not part of the gift giving spree. It’s your vacation. Not theirs. Enjoy it. Spend for yourself. If you want to get them something, choose something that’s both inexpensive and representative of the country you came from.
And NO! It should never be a t-shirt that screams the country (like “Someone went to Taipei and all he got me was this t-shirt” kind of gift), or a box of chocolate coated macadamias that scream “Hawaiian Host”. While they are standard souvenirs, they are actually not well thought of but rushed gifts from the Duty Free shop.
Gadgets and electronics
I have friends that buy their laptops and other gadgets in another country (like the US or Europe or Japan).
Here’s the rub.
While purchasing them in these countries may save you a little more money (perhaps 10-15% less than buying in Manila), the warranty of these gadgets and other electronic items are not valid in the Philippines. For example, your laptop freezes over hell when you’re back in Manila, a week after buying a MacBook Pro in San Francisco, you decide to bring it to one of the resellers in the Philippines like PowerMac. Unfortunately, the validity of your warranty is not worldwide. Too bad. You can’t exchange it for a new laptop because (1) they are RESELLERS and not THE Apple store and (2) the resellers will need to send the gadget to another country like Singapore or HongKong or wherever in order to get this fixed. Even if they can fix it locally, they will charge you. Resellers are not obligated to swap what is not bought from their stocks and are accountable only for the merchandise in their stocks.
Think twice before spending for gadgets whose warranty is out of coverage when it leaves the country where you purchase it.
Food (fresh or packed)
If the food is packed and sealed tightly, you shouldn’t have any worries about it getting spoiled or unmasked when you go through customs. Of course, there is the kind of food that “smells” badly or isn’t packed properly. I recall a few years back on a trip to San Diego, two Filipinos traveling were asked to step aside for inspection at Customs. The woman hid dried fish inside a whole large can of Nido milk. The man in front of me hid fermented duck eggs inside his dirty underwear inside his luggage. I should know, I was behind them. Although I did not bring any processed or fresh food (I was traveling to San Diego for a poster presentation in a Pharmacology meeting), I am a Filipino. It was shameful to be segregated this way at customs just because fellow Filipinos smuggle in food that’s not packed appropriately and may be danger to the health of the overall American community.
It is important to remember that bringing in fresh produce is NOT allowed for health reasons. Of course, we take the risk. And while we do take that chance, hopefully we don’t endanger other people because of irresponsible risk taking.
Everyone loves to shop. Whether it is designer clothes, gadgets, make-up and perfumery, food, shoes, goods and candies…let’s all remember that we need to follow rules on what we can or cannot bring home.