Why are Indians paying in dollars at Delhi airport?

May be it makes duty-free shops more money.

 |  3-minute read |   31-12-2016
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Across the world, whether you are in New York or in Manila, when you buy something from the duty free shops inside an airport, you see the prices listed in local currency and transact in that currency by default. It doesn't matter whether you are a local, a resident of that country, or if you are a foreigner just passing through the airport. You can shop at the airport using local currency. Although, if you don't have the local currency, you can also pay in dollars or any other currency that the shop may accept (at the Hong Kong airport, for example, they accept Chinese RMB).

But this rule - or rather norm - doesn't apply on Delhi Airport. It is a unique airport, possibly the only one across the world where the duty free shop doesn't show prices in local currency. Instead, the folks running the Delhi Airport love dollars - yep, those crisp $$$ notes - so much that they don't give two hoots to the rupee. They just don't want it, even though rupee is the legal tender in this country, backed by the government of the nation.

Here is what happens at duty free shops at the IGI airport. You see the prices in dollars. Now if you are an Indian, you have two ways to pay for something that has its price shown in dollars. You can ask the staff at DFS to convert the price to rupee, which they do by multiplying the price with the forex rate of the day. Then you can pay this in cash in rupees. Or you can pay directly in dollars. The pay-in-rupees option is only available to Indians and that too if you are paying cash. If you pay by card, your card is charged in dollars.

why-the-dollars_123116074700.jpg An advert on Delhi Duty Free online.

This is a completely unique, and as an Indian I must add, perplexing shopping system at the DFS inside IGI airport. As a traveller inside an Indian airport, not only should I be seeing the prices in rupees, but I should also be able to pay in local currency even if I am paying by card. At the same time, foreigners too should be able to pay in rupees. After all, the IGI airport is in India and it ought to be respecting the currency of the country and not foisting dollars on people who are travelling to the country.

As to why the IGI airport does it, your guess is as good as mine. Every time I get into the duty free shop inside the IGI airport, I ask the staff why they charge people in dollars and why they show prices in dollars. But I never get an answer. "Sir, we just work here. The rules are set by the management. We don't know anything other than that" - this is the only answer I get, even from the floor managers in the shop.

May be charging in dollars has something to do with business reasons. May be it is more beneficial for the airport. May be it makes DFS more money. May be the people who run the DFS just love the design of the dollar more. May be it is an Indian government directive. May the DFS management at IGI airport hates Indian rupee. May be they don't consider themselves part of India and hence seek dollars and not the legal tender of the country. I don't know. But it sure sounds weird that if I have to shop at an Indian airport, I have to (preferably) pay in dollars.


Javed Anwer Javed Anwer @brijwaasi

Tech editor at http://www.indiatoday.in . I review stuff. and occasionally write at http://www.dailyo.in . can speak intelese. usual disclaimers apply.

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