A popular thing for travelers worldwide is tax free shopping at countries that offer it and there are multiple options to get your VAT refunded, most commonly is Global Blue that partners with most big stores.
The fee becomes even higher when you ask the service counter at the airport to refund the VAT to you in cash which doesn’t make much sense anyway unless you plan on going back to that country. What else would you do with all the local currency, exchange it back at your home country to incur even more fees?
In Germany for example you have an option to avoid all fees as you can go back to the store with the stamped export documents and get all the VAT refunded by the merchant. However it’s more complicated, you need to run around and many stores don’t know how to do it (don’t want to do it).
Global Blue is easier and even though you have to pay the handling fee at least you can save some money when you ask the counter associate to directly put the money on your credit card.
This option was always available when you send in the receipts to some address in Slovakia which is assigned to the envelopes you get at the store and which you can drop at the mail slots inside the airport. Call me paranoid but I don’t trust that system and rather deal with the counter right there even if it means a little wait.
You can hand the associate the documents and your credit card and the money will be put on there right away.
The transactions always showed up within a couple days in my experience.
An even better option is tax free shopping in Japan where the VAT gets taken off entirely right on the spot.
Here is the receipt when I purchased my new Macbook in March:
No further processing was necessary and I just paid the listing price without VAT. Perfect!
Especially for larger purchases it can make sense to take the fees into account. When I buy something for a couple hundred EURO in Germany for example I won’t run around to save 5 EUR in fees and just use Global Blue or whatever the shop offers (usually it’s either that or Premier Duty Free).
Keep in mind that in Europe you can do a tax refund if you’re an overseas resident and it’s annotated in your passport by an embassy abroad. I save quite a bit of money every year that way as I legitimately live abroad. You should explore that option if it applies to you!