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Episode 841: The Land Of Duty Free

A good haul.
Sergei Bobylev
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Sergei Bobylev/TASS

In the 1940s, if you were flying from New York City to London or Paris you would find yourself making a pit stop for fuel on the western coast of Ireland. The Shannon airport at the time wasn't much to look at, but the passengers arriving there were movie stars and celebrities, basically the super rich. And the people of Shannon realized pretty quickly that they needed to upgrade the local amenities for their wealthy clientele. They hired a man named Brendan O'Regan to make it happen.

Being the quick-thinking entrepreneur that he was, O'Regan convinced the Irish government to create a tax loophole. And thus, duty free stores were born. Today on the show, we follow the surprising origin of duty free, and try to answer the question: Are they really saving you any money?

Music: "Chu Chu" and "Lady Surfing."

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Karen Duffin (she/her) is a co-host and reporter for Planet Money, NPR's award-winning podcast that finds creative, entertaining ways to make sense of the big, complicated forces that move our economy. She joined the team in March 2018.
Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.