Held Up Without A Gun

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

I’ve been holding this post until today since it’s food related and we try to do food on Fridays. The Springsteen-based title is in honor of taking the family to see him tomorrow night but it’s applicable to the subject at hand. My friend Mongrel is of Italian descent and revels in what he calls the “underlying criminal mindset” of the entire country. I think he’s typically hyperbolic about that but a couple of food incidents sort of have me believing it.
Whilst in Praiano, our group went for a lovely dinner overlooking the church square. The service was so-so although it wasn’t busy but the food was pretty good and we enjoyed ourselves. Right up until the bill came. Honestly, had one secondi that we’d ordered arrived (it never came), we probably wouldn’t have even checked the bill as we hadn’t throughout the trip. But we did, and in so doing found that we had indeed been charged for the dish that never came. Oh, and the prices on the bill didn’t match the menu to the tune of 40% more when all was said and done. Seriously!

We gave the bill to the manager, who theatrically tore it up. Another arrived in a few minutes. The secondi was gone, but the bill STILL wasn’t right. There was NO remorse, no rush to fix it, and no arguing when we asked for a third bill.

The scene sort of replayed itself in the airport as we were leaving. 3 breakfast specials ordered, 2 partially delivered. A complaint and then the coffee (wrong kind) for the third arrived. Then no juice at all. Yes, they were busy but a direct conversation with the counter person in Italian and in English (she was capable in both, as am I, sort of) resulted in shrugged shoulders, one more juice and no further attention.

Basically, they’re stealing, either knowingly, as in the marked up bill, or unknowingly, as in the undelivered and incorrect food.  They held us up without a gun.  I love most things about the country – their “live and let live” attitude is among the things I like most.  But there are limits and I don’t think the cultural differences were at work here.

One doesn’t have to go to Italy to find this.  Extra fees, hidden charges, fine print.  They’re all a form of stealing and are guaranteed to make your customers as angry as we were.  One of our party posted a bad review on TripAdvisor for the restaurant, a small example of how customers just don’t take this stuff quietly any more.  With businesses fighting hard for customers this is no time to nickel and dime them to death.  Transparency works well off-line too!

Any of you have similar horror stories, maybe even ones that are a lot closer to home?

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks

2 responses to “Held Up Without A Gun

  1. Jonathan Levy

    First of all, this story will be about Italy, ma non capite questo come non mi piace italia perche’ io lo voglio bene.

    As my dad and I were leaving from Rome (we had spent the weekend in Sorrento) we arrived at Termini and had to take a cab to Da Vinci. In two separate trips, my sister and her fiance and my mother and sister took a cab from La piazza spagna (almost right next to Termini) to Da Vinci. For each of them, it cost 50 EUR. We figured we may get flat rate going to the airport, but our driver conversing with me alternatively in Italian and English said he could not tell us how much it would be. It ended up being closer to 80 or 90 EUR. It was ridiculous. There was no traffic. We complained about it and the amicable con-man (for that is what he was) knocked of 10 or 15 EUR off, but the damage was done. Neither my father nor I were appreciative of the way such a wonderful trip ended.

    • Typical. Of course, you COULD have taken the train from Termini – lets you out right in the airport terminal and is only 8 EUR. Then again, with bags, it’s a pain and the charge is per person so it adds up.

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