Question about duty free shopping.

I’m going to St Martin next week and I wanted to buy Sony’s new Cyber-shot DSC-P9 to replace my old Cyber-shot that doesn’t have zoom, is only 2.1 megapixels, etc.

I was going to go out and buy one today but it occurred to me that St. Maarten (the Dutch side) is a hotbed of duty-free shopping.

Then it occurred to me that I had no frigging idea what the advantage of duty-free shopping is and how it compares to shopping right here in the good ol’ US of A.

Does it just mean that I won’t pay tax? Is it that simple? Help!

From the US Customs folks:

“Articles sold in foreign duty-free shops are subject to U.S. Customs duty and other restrictions (for example, only one liter of liquor is duty-free), but you may include these items in your personal exemption. Articles sold in duty-free shops are meant to be taken out of the country; they are not meant to be used, worn, eaten, drunk, etc., in the country where you purchased them. Articles purchased in American duty-free shops are also subject to U.S. Customs duty if you bring them into the United States. For example, if you buy liquor in a duty-free shop in New York before entering Canada and then bring it back into the United States, it may be subject to duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.”

From this, I gather you’d only be able to use the duty-free shop on your way out of St Martin, thus limiting your pictures to the plane (and if I remember correctly, I didn’t get my duty-free stuff until I disembarked from the plane, or maybe it was in the air).

We’ve picked up a couple of Sony Mavicas at their outlet store and saved about $300 off the street price. They were factory rebuilts, with full Sony warranties and have worked perfectly fine. Maybe there’s one near you?

Have fun in St Martin!

Well, I ran that model “DSC-P9” through and got back one at 514.00 (about $85 cheaper that the Sony website). If you buy from an out-of-state retailer you skip the tax as well. This may be more simple in the long run as you are dealing with a vendor in this country and have more recourse if anything goes sideways.
Always remember to use the credit card that has the best anti-fraud policy and product insurance as an added free-bee.

You would have to declare the camera and pay US duty on the value over $400 (if I’m reading this page right).

You will also be buying a camera without a USA warranty. Not a smart idea, especially with electronics. You may also be unable to get an instruction manual in English.

make sure you know what the price ought to be, or at least suggested retail. A lot of times the so-called duty free shops are not any cheaper, they just attract the “bargain” hunters/suckers.

Camera prices in the US are just about the lowest in the world. I’d be very surprised if you will get a better deal in the Carribean, especially at a Duty Free shop. Plus there’s the problem with a non-US warentee which means a huge hassle if you every need to get a repair.

Buying from a reputable US mail order shop will probably get you a better deal.

Double emphasis on the reputable!

Personally, I’d recommend getting all the pricing information you can off of a comparative shopping engine like, then take that information with you when shopping in St. Martin. You may find better deals there, but make sure because not everything is a bargain.

I would have to disagree with Telemark as I have seen camera prices much cheaper in foreign ports as there seem to be fewer middlemen and less mark-up along the way. Sometimes they are gray market cameras (i.e. a Hong Kong camera ends up in St. Martin with a Hong Kong super-cheap price).

What has been said about the warranty is true though most owners manuals for cameras already come in several languages of which English is ALWAYS one of them. So balance how much the warranty is worth to you in considering the purchase price.

While I can’t condone illegally importing a camera without paying the tariff…uh…how the hell would the US customs people know? Unless you are stupid enough to have it still in the box with some obvious St. Martin markings on it, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. And if anyone asks, you bought the camera for less than whatever the cut off value is…