Economic impacts of confusing baggage / security policies (or) how I didn’t know what I could buy at the duty free shop in Narita and neither did the duty free employee

Johnnie Walker Platinum bottle in hand, I waited in line at the Narita airport Duty Free shop, ready to purchase it as a Christmas gift for my Dad. The cashier stopped me, pointing out that since I arrived in the USA in Denver, but had a domestic USA connecting flight to Bismarck, I couldn’t carry this one liter bottle of distilled goodness between Denver and Bismarck as a carry on, since I have to go through security again. 

Good point. 

But wait, I’ll get my checked luggage when I enter the USA, right? 

I always have in the past… but I’ve rarely had a connection to another domestic airport after I arrive in the USA. I haven’t flown internationally *that* much in my life. Usually I arrive from overseas to Minneapolis (MSP) or Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and then drive to wherever I’m going, so I get my luggage and leave. 
So, hmm, I’m questioning whether I’ll get my luggage when I arrive in Denver, or when I arrive in Bismarck. 

Further compounding my confusion: the nice service I had while flying out of the USA. 

When I flew from Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland (AKL), New Zealand, my checked bag went all the way from LAX to AKL, even though I had a stop in both Taipei and Sydney.

So… do you know definitively, off the top of my head, if I can buy duty free in Tokyo and get that bottle home?

I’ll wait for your guess. 

Turns out yes, I could!

Even though I have another flight into BIS – an international airport – I do indeed have to wait to grab my checked luggage at Denver. Then I wheel it through to a little room beyond the baggage pickup, dropping it off with another person to send on to its final destination of Bismarck. 

In between there, I could have unzipped the checked bag, put my whiskey bottle in there, and had it in Bismarck. 

But the rules were confusing enough that I didn’t know, and although I don’t travel internationally too frequently, I try to go at least once a year, which I suspect is more than the average us citizen… Todo: citation needed. 

My backup plan, in light of the information at the Narita duty free shop, was to buy a bottle at the US duty free shop. When I could show my international boarding pass, they’d see I just got into the USA, and let me buy duty free. 

Any guess whether that was possible?

Nope. It’s not allowed. 

The guy at the duty free in the USA (which also had that bottle of Johnnie Platinum!) informed me that duty free is only outgoing from the USA. 

So… Here I am, no bottle to give my Dad. Guess I’ll buy something in Bismarck. 
The result: I had to pay tax on the bottle. Good for whoever is taxing it, not good for me as a consumer. 

There is zero incentive for the government to streamline, simplify, or clarify this process, since the end result is more tax money for them… unless they truly want to inform more than increase revenue. I can hope for the former, but expect the latter doesn’t make anyone in the government too unhappy. I admit, it’s a cynical viewpoint. 
That’s the story of the Christmas gift that ended up costing me a few dollars more – and in fact, Johnnie Walker Platinum was only available in duty free stores for awhile, so I have no guarantee I can even get it in Bismarck. 

Hopefully this post can help anyone else facing a similar on-the-spot question like I experienced in Narita! If anyone knows if either of my yes/no answers above aren’t always that way, please post in the comments!

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