I wonder whether someone could help explain to me certain unusual practices in Baltic airports. In May I tried to exchange currency at the Tallinn airport right at the flight exit.
The electronic board had a rate for buying and selling. Unfortunately when I tried to exchange U.S. dollars I was given 25 percent less than the listed rate. I was told that the higher rate applied only to sums over 500 USD. This of course was not written anywhere. Similar rip-off practices were used in money exchange kiosks in the Old Town.
So what gives? Is Estonia, (officially listed as the least corrupt former Soviet state), now in the hands of a visibly robbing 'mafia'? Who checks these practices? How does this affect the image of Estonia to unsuspecting travelers? Does anybody in that country care? Without a solid exchange rate no customer can make a rational choice as to which money changer gives the best rates, nor what the disparity is between buying and selling. I did not find any such practices in Latvia.
At the same time Latvia has its own shady practices. In the Riga airport I noticed that the evidently 'tax- free' Latvian alcohol price was significantly higher than in any 'taxed' store outside the airport.
Should these alcohol stores not be forced to list both the 'regular' price and the 'tax free' price, as is done in many other countries so that customers could see how they are gouged. Who supervises these greedy little stores in the supposedly government-owned airport?
Whatever the word for the above abusive economic practices may be - corruption, rip-off, gouging, Soviet economics - the smell lingers and fouls the images of these two countries.