Wednesday, July 3

Tourist in Italy? Keep the Change!

My first rule for visiting Italy and as reported in my book is Make sure you have lots of change.  I'm not going to go into the reasons why (you'll have to buy the book - on link to the right), but Caveat Emptor those of you who do not heed my warning.  But, one thing you will not need change for is for TIPS.  I've dedicated an entire post on the Tipping practices in Italy [It's on my page dedicated to Travel Tips].  But of course, my one lonely voice is just a drop in an ocean of 7+ million visitors who get taken to the cleaners every time they sit down and eat or drink in Italy (just ask the couple that was hit up for € 64 or $83.25 for ordering a few gelatos and sitting down to eat them on the premises).

This past month, I have had an onslaught of visitors blowing through Rome on their way in, out and in between.  Which signifies a lot of meals out or evenings on the town.  And all the joviality and fun ends when the bill comes - and not because, as one visitor observed, the prices were so much higher than back home.  Americans take a big, huge guilt trip and start trying to figure out just what to leave by way of tips.  Which leads me to interject, 'How about nothing? Or how about, very little? [and here, I'm thinking like an Italian in the way of a coin or two].  So, on a 100 euro bill, Americans turn ashen asking, 'Well, is €25 too little?'.  I hotly retort, it's way too much.  
And this is because of the bread. 
Picture from UrbisMedia
Last night, on our 120 euro bill, the 'bread charge' which came into play because the random 'cover charge' was outlawed, amounted to 20 euro. In short, that amounted to a levy of 2 euro per person or 16.6% of our bill.  On large groups, there is often even an extra service charge, just because.  When my friends queried, "Is service included?" the waiter was honest.  No, it's not.  And so, the table went into their collective guilt complex, probably because we were so close to Vatican City.  But that's because they've already levied a surcharge on your meal, whether or not you eat the bread.

Americans cannot let this rest and just leave with a smile like the rest of us.
Wait staff are not going to pipe up and decline, although, on occasion in Bell'Italia I have actually had waiters refuse a tip [arguably, and due to my accent, it could have been I was offering too little...].

Ditto on taxi rides.

Just pay what's on the meter.  Okay?
You're already paying top dollar, getting taken for a ride, and generally it's costing a fortune.

If people won't read the fine print in their guidebooks, please pass this on:

Taxes and Tips are already in your bill.  That's why the numbers when you purchase anything are so nice & tidy and round.

So, keep the change.  You'll seriously be needing it.


Harm said...

Good to know -- thanks!

Unknown said...

The change! I'm back in England for a holiday and keep trying to give people the correct change. £4.43, do you want the 43p? They think I'm mad.