It's Saturday afternoon as I write this; about 4 PM. I"m not working today, nor do I plan to work tomorrow - nothing useful to do. So I decided that it was time I enjoyed a bottle of good wine. They sell Australian wine here - just down the road from the hotel at a place called the Camp John Hay Comissary. Remember this used to be a US military base so the use of the word commissary isn't surprising.
So in I waltzed. Not a lot of choices. Wolf Blass was the best balance of price and drinkability though I wouldn't normally choose to pay 18 Australian Dollars for a bottle of their red label. There are much better wines available for half the price in any bottle shop in Australia. But one makes do...
So, bottle chosen, I fronted at the cash register. Got to the front of the line and the guy asked me for my 'Purchase Coupon'. Say what? He gestures at a counter over there, rather imperatively, so over there I go.
At the counter I stand somewhat wonderingly. A young guy hastens over and asks for 20 pesos. 'What for?' I asked. 'It's a government requirement' he answers. So I forked over 20 pesos and recieved in return a piece of paper. Returned to the checkout and now I can buy my wine.
So what is that magic coupon? It's permission for me to shop at the commissary. I quote the first guideline/reminder printed on the coupon.
'A shopping privilege purchase coupon should first be secured at the JHMC-Special Economic Zone Department before purchases are done.'
Yep, I'm staying at an hotel within the JHMC Special Economic Zone and trying to spend my money within that zone. And in order to do that I have to pay a tax of 20 pesos. It's not a lot of money to be honest - about 40 US cents. But it's a one day coupon. If I should decide tomorrow that I want to buy some shampoo or some Australian chocolate I have to pay the 20 pesos again. Nice system!