I don’t often find myself getting ripped off too badly for being a foreigner in Buenos Aires, but it does happen occasionally. Case and points that come to mind right away are just a couple of weeks ago with my new pair of pants which I got hemmed (they wanted to charge double) and on paying for rent anywhere in the city. Tonight we got a nice little taste of being taken advantage of while going out for dinner.
After going for a run my roommate asked me what my plans were for dinner and I said I was thinking of ordering in. He was interested, and then like an idiot I suggested that we just go to the same cafe on the corner of the street. I don’t eat out too often but it’s nice to do so, and I always wind up eating unceremoniously in the apartment. So we headed down to the Panini on the corner of Avenida Libertador and Avenida Callao which I pretty much never go into because it’s too expensive for me and not worth the extra money. As soon as we sat down I regretted it, noting that prices were nearly double just to eat in the restaurant. I got a can of Coke which ran me $9 ARG, which is totally ridiculous. A liter of coke generally costs you about $3.50.
To save money we decided to just order a large pizza and split it, and my roommate suggested we get tuna and onions. He’s from Switzerland and apparently tuna on pizza is standard there, and since I’d never tried it I said, sure what the hell. It turns out it was pretty good, though not something I’ll order frequently. We got the bill and suddenly noticed that we owed $91 pesos. How the hell could that be? No one ordered steak and wine. For some reason they charged us three times for the tuna at $6 a pop and 3 times for the onions at $5 a pop. That made no sense. *(I’d also like to just add how insanely overpriced this mediocre pizza was. Simply for being located in Recoleta, this restaurant charged double what most restaurants will for some ‘za.)
How could the sides wind up costing almost as much as the pizza? My roomie noticed it first and put up a stink, but my Spanish is better and so I did most of the complaining. One thing life in Argentina has taught me is that you have to be a shameless complainer because otherwise you won’t get what you want. Argue better than the other guy, this is how you win. We asked the waitress what the deal was and she couldn’t explain it so she called over the manager.
Immediately, as in every situation, they tried to make it in a case of “You don’t understand because you don’t speak the language well enough.” I made it clear that language had nothing to do with not understanding why we were charged three times extra on two extras. The menu had prices for the extras listed as so: individual $4, small $5, large $6. Thus, we should owe $12 for the extras. His argument was that because it was a large pizza they had to charge for 3 large extras. Sorry buddy, but that makes no sense. If you charge people three times per side you need to make that clear on your menu. According to the menu, a large pizza with extras is $6 more. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’ve ordered off of menus around the world and never had trouble understanding how to do so.
He became indignant fairly quickly and threw in the towel, saying pay what you think is fair but next time you should consult me before you order. I said you need to fix your menu if it’s so unclear that people need to ask, and in any case it has nothing to do with misunderstanding because the menu clearly states $6. What it boils down to is that they thought two foreigners wouldn’t catch it or care enough to complain about it. In this rich neighborhood where people often throw around money without much thought, we haggled over tuna and onions. They probably never saw it coming. The fact that the manager gave up so easily just confirms with me how ridiculous their claim was.
They gave us a new bill and we left what we should have, but before leaving I told the waitress that I’m not stupid and language has nothing to do with it, that I obviously speak well. I said you can’t just try to screw us over, that we live up the street and I order from there occasionally. It’s bad business to shit on your doorstep. I repeated again so she understood, “No soy un boludo.” I know how to read a fucking menu.