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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Orit Zait, 40, took an El Al flight from Israel to the US on February 10. On her way, she stopped at Duty-Free, where she bought chocolate and alcohol for about $100. She asked that her purchases be left at the pick-up counter, planning to collect them when she returned.
When Zait returned to Israel, it dawned on her seconds after she left the arrivals section that she had forgotten to pick up her items.
She went to the airport's information desk, where she was told to contact the James Richardson company, which operates the duty-free store. Zait also filled out a complaint form at the information desk.
Once she contacted the company, she was told that she had two options. If she knew someone who was coming to Israel, she could arrange for that person to pick it up. But she must fax them her passport with a picture, written power of attorney, a copy of her ticket and payment receipt to that person and to customer service.
Her only other option was to get her money back.
"I was in shock," Zait said. "We're living in the 21st century."
Zait said she was surprised that there was no office set aside for customers who forgot their purchases, where they could sign a form and have their items brought to them.
She made contact with El Al's public relations manager, who had tried to help her, but was unsuccessful.
In the end, Zait did receive her items. A good friend of hers works in the airport and travels twice a month, so she would collect them for her.
But, Zait said, an experience like this takes the fun out of shopping.
"I won't buy again from there," she said. "They lose customers. If you have bad experience from a store, you won't go back."
In response, a representative of the James Richardson company said it did not have many customers who experienced this problem.
There are signs in the airport reminding passengers to pick up their purchases, and a warning is written on the receipt that if someone forgets items, the company is not liable, the representative said.
Avi Ben Hur, CEO of the James Richardson company in Israel, said out of the 1.2 million pickups, only 200 to 400 people either forget to take their purchase or change their mind about buying the items.
Samson Katz, director of passenger services at Ben- Gurion Airport, said Israelis generally don't forget their purchases, because they're familiar with the pick-up procedure.
He said Israel might be the only country in the world where people can buy items in the duty-free store and not have to carry them onto the plane.
Katz also noted the big signs in place after passport control reminding passengers about their duty- free purchases.
Zait said she hadn't seen any signs.
"It doesn't matter if there's a big sign or not," she said, adding that there should be some service for passengers who simply forget.
"It's not easy," she said. "They should make a small office where you fill out a small form."