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My experience with duty-free stores located on the US-Canada border has been on the Canadian side. In the three Canadian stores I've been to (two in Quebec and one in British Columbia) the only exit from the duty-free store leads directly to the US port of entry, so that any shopper who has visited the store has to cross the border.

However, on the US side duty-free stores don't seem to be set up this way -- the duty-free stores in Derby Line, VT and Highgate Springs, VT, for instance, are located on public roads not on the border and a driver could easily visit the store and then not proceed to Canada.

Given that, how do these US stores ensure that travelers who've purchased goods there take them out of the country (in this case, into Canada)?

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    This is a guess, hence why I've put it as a comment, not an answer... the purchases are electronically submitted to the appropriate port, so if you don't attend to the port, officials know you didn't legally export the goods. The duty-free store at Dunseith, ND/Boissevain, MB is as you describe, too, so I can't think of any other explanation. Can anyone confirm? – Jim MacKenzie Aug 22 '18 at 15:24
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    @JimMacKenzie what would happen then? Would ICE track you down and punish you? – phoog Aug 22 '18 at 15:27
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    @phoog I suspect the next time you crossed the border, you'd be in for some questions. And the only other possible answer I have for the question is "Nothing; they would have no idea", which I simply can't believe to be true. – Jim MacKenzie Aug 22 '18 at 15:30
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    @JimMacKenzie at which point, what? They fine you? Also, the US and Canada have only been exchanging information about border crossings for a few years, and these shops have been around for longer than that. Before the exchange of information, the US wouldn't even have had any way of knowing definitively whether you'd left the country or not. – phoog Aug 22 '18 at 15:55
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    I suspect there is at least some monitoring, maybe CCTV, to make sure you don't turn south when leaving the shop with a trunk full of booze and cigarettes. (Some law enforcement agencies even hang out in parking lots of liquor stores near state lines for this very purpose.) – Mike Harris Aug 22 '18 at 16:05
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My hunch was that they would apply the same method they use at airports: deliver the goods at a point where you are sure to exit the country. That's what their FAQ says:

To be eligible for duty free shopping, you must:

  • Be leaving the United States (usually for more than 48 hours).
  • Take the items with you into another country (As required by U.S. law, you will receive your items as you exit the country, either as you get on the plane or as you drive across the border).
  • Take into consideration that most countries impose restrictions on the quantity of duty free merchandise you can bring in.

(emphasis mine).

Not sure how exactly they organise that, though, it seems a bit more complex than it would be at an airport (especially in terms of timing), and I don't quite see a practical location where they could hand over the goods and be sure you don't turn back.

The alternative could be that they do not really sell duty free, just sell at a discount...

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    The last time I bought duty-free (well, it was a friend but I was with her), at Dunseith, ND, she got her receipt and her bag of purchases, and that was it. We went out the door to my car, and drove toward the border crossing, which wasn't far but wasn't immediately present. (See: goo.gl/maps/HRR5VHaqnT12). The Canadian duty-free shop is closer still to the border, but still outside the immediate area. – Jim MacKenzie Aug 22 '18 at 17:05
  • I've downvoted the answer because I feel this is more suitable for a comment - the answer is speculative. – Jim MacKenzie Aug 22 '18 at 17:09
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    @JimMacKenzie have to admit I kind of agree, it was my first intention, but then I found that FAQ which is quite explicit (though probably not true). – jcaron Aug 22 '18 at 17:10
  • It is explicit, but at least in the case of the duty-free store I was most recently at, it definitely isn't true. (It certainly is when traveling by air. e.g. in Las Vegas, you make a purchase, then they deliver it to you, literally as you are boarding your aircraft. They hand it to you right as you pass the podium into the jetway.) – Jim MacKenzie Aug 22 '18 at 17:14

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