21 Nov 2019
Merchants deceptively promise a specific to the piece bought certificate of authenticity and a 17% VAT refund off the sale price of an expensive item. They then seal the package out of the sight of the customer claiming the package can only be opened by the VAT refund office at the airport upon exiting the country.
Customers are told they will lose the VAT refund if the sealed package is opened prior to departure. This prevents the customer from realizing the merchant has NOT included the promised “specific to the item purchased” certificate of authenticity (so the item may be properly insured) or the required VAT tax refund forms in the sealed package.
When the VAT refund office opens the sack and tells the customer they have been deceived because nothing promised is inside (sometimes not even the piece bought), the customer has no recourse as their flight is leaving the country soon.
Other versions are even more deceptive. It isn’t unusual for a guide and driver to be involved in pushing the customer to buy via assuring them the merchant is reputable and the piece is legitimate and confirming the VAT refund process requirements of keeping the package sealed until opened by the VAT refund office.
(If the package is opened prior to departure the item is not considered an export and is therefore not eligible for a VAT refund.) (If the merchant fails to provide the VAT refund paperwork the customer losses the 17% less they agreed to pay for the item. If the merchant fails to provide the specific certificate of authenticity the item is not insurable as a certified antiquity or whatever the item is specifically and the customer has little recourse as most credit card companies fail to help as they claim they will do.
It isn’t unusual for the merchant to place a lesser item or no item in the package sealed out of the customers eyesight. Guides and bus drivers who share in commissions made off of the customers they bring often distract the customer or hurry the customer to allow the merchant to complete the deception without the customer seeing what has occurred.
This process is worse in Israel where many tour buses are led by a well known clergyman. Customers of faith are led to believe they somehow misunderstood the merchant. Most do not feel comfortable standing up against the fraud because they don’t want to seem like an unhappy traveler in front of the clergy they respect. The merchant and/or tour company give the clergy gifts for bringing in customers who trust them as clergy. The latter is not a problem IF the merchant operates honorably. When the merchant is deceptive the clergy, guide and driver are profiting off of the scam whether they are an active part of it or not.
Jewelry Tel Magido Megido ISR sold us a piece of Roman glass jewelry promising a certificate of authenticity specific to the piece we agreed to buy and promised a 17% VAT refund as a part of the sale. The merchant went behind a barrier wall to get the certificate of authenticity and tax forms then return with a sealed package I was told only the VAT tax office could open. Our guide and bus driver were simultaneously telling me about the great beauty of the piece, the honorability of the store, etc.
At the airport the Tel Aviv VAT office informed us this is a scam they see daily. They told me to contact our guide if I had a way to do so. We contacted our guide via messenger from the Tel Aviv Airport. He told us to get our credit card company to handle it.
Our credit card company – CITICARD claimed they couldn’t get to the bottom of it via the investigation because we didn’t have written proof of what happened. We were cheated by the merchant. The guide and bus driver made a commission off of us and failed to protect us at the store they took us to saying the merchant was trustworthy. We feel bad about having to involve our pastor who trusts the guide. It happens to people of faith all the time in ISRAEL. Buyer beware.