El Corte Inglés, Spain’s Largest Department Store, Has Special Services for Tourists:
Our Spanish tour guide informs us that Spanish people like shopping at El Corte Inglés. This chain department store is the largest in Spain and sells everything from groceries to clothing, electronics, home appliances, etc. and the prices are good. As we were not planning to do any department store shopping in Spain, I filed this information away, that is until Barcelona.
Shopping at El Corte Inglés
One of my favourite Spanish fashion brands happens to be available in the El Corte Inglés store in Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona. This is when I discover that El Corte Inglés has services that are specially dedicated to tourists shopping in their stores.
Welcome Discount for Tourists
For non-resident tourists, El Corte Inglés offers a 10% Welcome Discount at any of their department stores. Before you shop or pay for your goods go to the Customer Service Department (SAC) to get your Discount Card. You must show a valid passport or photo ID proof that you are a foreign resident – we had a photocopy of our passport and that was fine. Once you’ve got this card, you can carry on with your shopping. The Discount Card is to be given to the cashier for the 10% to be applied. Some goods such as food and books are excluded from this discount.
If you are visiting various departments or levels in the store, you can shop without having to carry your merchandise around. Ask the El Corte Inglés personnel for a Shopping Card. The card has an ID number which allows them to track your goods which are sent to the Customer Service Department. When you are finished, you can pick up all your shopping at the Customer Service Department and pay for all your purchases in the one transaction.
Spain VAT Refund
If you reside in a non-European Union (EU) country, Canary Islands, Ceuta or Melilla, you are entitled to have your VAT (Value Added Tax) refunded to you when you leave the EU. El Corte Inglés has an in-house department that handles the VAT refunds if the goods purchased in their department stores exceed €90.15.
After you’ve paid for your shopping, go to their VAT Refund desk to get your refund documentation processed. You will be provided with a piece of paperwork showing the total of your shopping and the VAT amount. This piece of paper must be stamped by Customs on your exiting the EU, and then mailed back to El Corte Inglés. They even provide you with a store self-addressed envelope so that it gets back to the right department.
We were in the El Corte Inglés store in the mid-afternoon and there were a number of people waiting in the queue. It was quite a wait before we got our document processed. As Athens was our last point of exit from the EU from we had our document stamped there. Within three weeks of sending the stamped document back to El Corte Inglés, I had the VAT refund credited to my credit card account. The general Spain VAT rate is 18%, although not everything is charged at this rate. El Corte Inglés deducts a €7 service fee but this is well worth it as the system works.
With the 10% Welcome Discount and the 18% VAT Refund, I saved quite a bit on my shopping at El Corte Inglés.
Map of Barcelona: El Corte Ingles