How do Caribbean vendors sell cameras & electronics cheaper than in the US?

Just got back from a cruise. Walked into a camera store in Sint Maarten on a lark. Looked at a Canon 70-300 L-glass IS lens. They told me it was $1550. As I left the store they came down to $1499. I figured there’s no way this little store could beat B&H.

But I checked B&H, same lens for $1599. Not a huge difference for an item at that price (6.25%), but still, a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks.

How can a little camera store on an island undersell B&H?

Same story with watches. I bought a Casio G-shock watch for $70, and the cheapest price I found at home online was $79. I did not do similar comparisons for expensive watches but am guessing they are also good deals.

I imagine it’s grey-market - not a knockoff, but one intended for sale in a different region. I bought my camera that way, and lost out on warranty coverage, but ISTR the savings being significant.

Or it may have something to do with import taxes?

This is how I generally answer GQ posts, I try and catch them before anyone else gets to them, post a couple of theories, and then let people who actually know what’s going on refute them or confirm them.

Don’t forget you may have to pay import duty upon return to the USA.:smiley:

I imagine they don’t have much of a problem with returns.

Duty free.

Not unless you exceed the duty free exemptions that are extended to travelers.

Could it have something to do with the overall cost of living and doing business in that location?

I’d guess it’s why a hamburger in Boston cost more than at the place on the corner in my hometown. And why it costs a whole lot more than a ground beef pattie on bread in, say, rural China.

I don’t know if Canon holds its authorized dealers to certain minimum prices or not, but between being “gray-market” goods and just having less of an infrastructure (eg: that big store in Manhattan can’t be cheap) to support, I can easily see a small shop overseas being able to beat B&H.

Ignoring customs and any duty you may be responsible for, there’s nothing illegal, immoral or fattening about buying lenses overseas. The biggest issue you’d encounter is warranty service - once you’re back home in the US, the lens’ warranty is essentially useless if it breaks. If you need warranty service, you’d have to ship the lens back to that shop in the Caribbean, otherwise, pay full price for repairs.

To its credit, B&H makes it pretty darn clear if a given item has a USA or non-USA warranty, and they explain the where to get service issues. A lot of less reputable dealers will just advertise the cheaper “direct import” price and not tell you upfront what you’re getting.

All good points. I don’t remember the allowance for purchased goods, I thought it was around $800 a person. I was thinking gray-market and asked the guy about the warranty and he claimed it carried a full US warranty. I didn’t ask to see the paperwork.