Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a travel issue. important – and what it means to you.
A cafe in St Mark’s Square in Venice closely resembles the economic concept of a “perfect market”, in which all consumers have a complete picture of prices and competing suppliers. fiercely at each other. As noted in my weekly travel newsletter on Fridays, the statutory price list is carefully concealed to avoid the risk of patrons seeing it before placing an order. And if the price of a cup of coffee isn’t painful enough, my informant Neil Taylor points out that the price will increase by €6 if the band happens while you’re sitting there – make a coffee. Mediocre 18€ (£15) coffee.
Such literally hidden extras attracted a lot of comments. Paul Griffiths has raised his bets on expensive drinks to £38 – the equivalent of 1,600 Thai baht currently for a cocktail at the Sky Bar of the Le Bua hotel in Bangkok. “You can’t even wander around to see before you buy,” he said.
Annoying, I agree. However, I do not classify this as a “hidden add-on”. The menu is available online, under the tagline: “Whether you join us for a drink or multiple glasses, we want your time at Sky to be a high point of your visit.”
Drinking can prove expensive. In Prague, “Johnny Punkster” highlights a nasty policy that is seen as a hidden extra: “Get charged for salt, pepper, ketchup, etc. on the table in many bars in Prague, even if you just drink beer and don’t eat. .”
Also in central Europe, Pamela reports: “At a restaurant in Vienna, we were charged €3 for every time we listened to music in the restaurant. This is not live music, just background music.” Picking up the topic of unsolicited dishes, she also faced a €2 charge for “unordered entrees”.
I have written at length about tipping in the US which means you have to add a minimum of 18% for service. Eileen Daly is getting a drink from a coffee shop in Las Vegas. “They asked me if I wanted an 18% increase in tip. What service did I get for tipping?”
National and local governments are also levying additional taxes, although they should all be informed in advance. Manchester was the first to create an accommodation tax – it brought in a £1 fee at hotels in the city centre.
UK starts late: Mark Wilson points out: “It’s no secret, but the city tax of €5 per night in Milan gives you a bit of a shock when you check out of a hotel.” The last Rome hotel I stayed at asked to pay the fee in cash and didn’t give a receipt, which a skeptic might argue is a hidden extra from Italian tax collectors.
What can the long-suffering traveler do? Steve Hearsey has a suggestion: “A restaurant in Frankfurt tipped us after we left – don’t tip for poor service.”
This surprised me, because in Germany – as elsewhere in continental Europe – tipping is really an option. But when the fee was applied to the credit card, Steve successfully challenged his card issuer and got a refund.
Perhaps, Dan F suggests, we are going in the wrong place. “You can find an espresso for €1.5 in most cafes in Venice.” And no tip required. Perfect.