France: Coveat Tourist

For all its diplomatic chilliness, France has long maintained a warm climate for U.S. travelers with its "tourist discount." Permitting 14% to 20% discounts on items paid for in foreign cash or checks and headed out of the country, the system is unique in Europe, has spawned thriving sales of everything from cheap trinkets to Citroëns, is a major underpinning of Parisian haute couture. Now the government is moving to cool the trade with new rules that went into effect last week, tangling both tradesmen and tourists in customs red tape.

The discount scheme was originated as a way of building...

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