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Italian rip-offs - but we're not having that experience.


May 9th, 2013, 12:53 AM
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Italian rip-offs - but we're not having that experience.


There is often comment on how people feel they are "ripped off" in Italy. The ice-cream story is a case in point, and maybe they were charged an excessive amount. I don't know. In almost two months, I suppose that we have seen the other side of the story, people being very generous. Often it is small things, a euro here and there, a discount on the price of duck at a butcher, places where we have taken a glass of wine and a panini outside, but still charged the "al banco" price.

An article priced at 31 euro, but charged at 30. We have received the wrong change twice, one time 5 euro too little, the other time 10 euro too much. Hand back the excess 10, and gain some good karma and a friend.

Admission charges that seem almost trivial. Six euro for the Castelvecchio in Verona, a Chorus pass for 12, museum pass in Venice for 18 euro, I think. Yes, you will maybe see locals being charged less than you. That old guy who has been having his morning coffee in the same bar for a decade - let him sit outside in the sun and charge him the "al banco" price, a way of being kind and maintaining a community. The four local ladies probably won't be charged six euro per for the music at Quadris. Maybe they take coffee there every day.

Yes, prices are heavy in the Piazza, also a bit heavy in Piazza Bra' in Verona, heavy in front of the Pantheon. Prices are also given in every menu, although the service charge might not be well advertised (and often there is no service charge). I guess that rents and rates are heavy in the Piazza, ditto for the others, and one pays for the experience as well as for what you consume.

We have received poor food and grumpy service once or twice, the worst spritz in all of Venice for 4 euro, and you learn to avoid places like that. We have never been billed for things that we did not order, in spite of this being a practice that many people seem to experience.

And then, a couple of nights ago, after dining, "Would you like a coffee? It's on the house". We declined. So we were served a couple of glasses of limoncello.

On the house.
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May 9th, 2013, 01:24 AM
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...Yes, you will maybe see locals being charged less than you...

I lived in Aberystwyth in Wales and in the tourist season I was always charged the locals price in shops and restaurants.
We go to Italy most years and can only once remember an Ice-cream seller trying to overcharge my husband by a Euro.
Perhaps it helps to be elderly and to speak some Italian. If I am handing over a largish note, I always apologise for only having a 50 or whatever.
You certainly pay more in heavily touristy areas. Just for fun, we once looked at the price of a bottle of bellini in Venice. It was 11 Euro around Saint Marks and 5 near the university.
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May 9th, 2013, 01:53 AM
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I'd almost swear they used to call this sort of thing "the free market", but truth in economic conversation seems to have gone totally down the rabbit hole in the world of globalization...
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May 9th, 2013, 02:50 AM
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The article didn't quote what prices were for similar products in similar locations in Rome. (That one pays more or less for something in Rome as opposed to one's hometown is of course meaningless, since one needs local market price ranges to determine value.)

I agree that once one is off the main piazzas, prices can drop considerably.

For non italiophones, it helps to carry a small notepad/pen for the proprietor to indicate the price before one commits to a purchase; if nothing else, this can help ensure one has sufficient cash on hand to complete the transaction.
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May 9th, 2013, 03:20 AM
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I don't wish to turn this into another ice-cream-in-Rome thread, but the gelateria in question had a long history of ripping people off egregiously. It really wasn't a case of a higher price because the underlying real estate is pricey, or even the law of supply and demand (which makes a seat in the piazza San Marco during the "dueling orchestras" expensive because it is so sought after, plus other high overhead costs associated with doing business in a lagoon).

The Rome gelateria was tricking its customers into paying for more gelato than they had requested. Straight out cheating. Apparently they had developed a way at being expert at it and intimidating people into paying -- not hard to do when tourists are trying to be polite and have a nice trip. Taking advantage of them.

On any given day anywhere in the world, people encounter poor service in one form or another or questionable prices. But on most days of their lives, people are not trying to have a "perfect" day. It is only when we travel that our hopes are so high, and therefore it becomes crushing when the moment is spoiled by a cheat or a rude encounter. At home, one would just gripe a bit, or fight back in one's own language. Abroad, you slink away and can't quite shake it. Fun is spoiled, at least momentarily.

The amounts of money being discussed in most "scams" and bad encounters are really trivial -- except underneath people feel they have spent thousands of dollars/euros to have a great experience, and that is what has been stolen from them, so of course they make a huge deal of it.

But what I find faintly ridiculous -- sorry -- is this superhuman effort to defend Europe from charges of having a resident population of louses who abuse tourists. It's not a big population, but it does exist, and some people are unlucky in becoming their victims.

No amount of "wise advice" from supposedly seasoned travelers on message boards is going to stop this abusers. It's just faintly insulting to their victims to keep telling them they should have known better and with enough travel tips, one never gets ripped off in Europe. It's just not true.

I also have no problem with dual-pricing to preserve community, but the entire world has set its sights against this with an ideological straight-jacket, so good luck with that.
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May 9th, 2013, 03:46 AM
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I have been to Italy for about more than three dozen times, both as a tourist and as a business traveller.

As always, my experiences were mixed. I had a lot of experiences with most welcoming, generous Italians. And I also had been the victim of rip-offs and arrogant behaviour quite often.

Firstly, there are many tourist traps in Italy. If you want to have a meal, a drink or an ice cream on a famous square in Rome or Venice (or any other touristy town in Italy) you will be charges excessive prices.

Secondly, if you do not speak Italian and if you are not perfectly familiar with Italian habits you will quite often be treated with arrogance. E.g. if you do not order four courses for dinner (the Italian way is antipasti, pasta, meat or fish and dessert) you have a good chance of being treated rudely, slowly and badly. I have to admit that often tourists provoke this kind of behaviour by themselves.

Thirdly, I had been quite often been victim of criminal rip-offs - especially at gas stations. Several times I even got letters from a dubious Italian agency charging money for toll roads although I had paid the toll properly.

Now the crucial question: Is Italy different from other countries?

In my experience, such rip-offs are much rifer in Eastern European countries, especially in Russia.

On the other hand, compared to Western European countries, I must say that rip-offs are much more frequent in Italy than in, say, France, UK, Spain or other countries. Twilight economy, tax evasion, corruption, mafia appear to be part of Italian culture.

BTW, we once had a spectacular experience of being treated in a very fair and generous way: When we hired a driver and a car in Sicily. The price was high but the service was outstanding and the driver declined a tip afterwards. Of course, the taxi business was operated by the mafia.
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May 9th, 2013, 05:28 AM
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It is interesting that you recount your experience with the dubious letter about not paying a toll. Just the other day mu son and I were discussing the fact that myhusband and I plan to rent a car on our upcoming trip. My son drove from Rome to Orivieto area last fall. He told me that months later he got a letter requesting a payment for a fine for a toll he supposedly had not paid. He too said he'd paid the toll, and there was no way he could have continued on the road if he hadn't paid the toll. But, he paid the fine anyway. Interesting to hear this is common.

By the way, just yesterday we ate out in a restaurant we'd never been to before here in our hometown in the US. We got "ripped off", and in retrospect it was quite purposeful on the restaurant's part. So, this is not just an Italian practice.
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May 9th, 2013, 05:29 AM
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I wonder if some of the people who actually travel to Italy aren't the brightest people on earth. They are constantly complaining about how bad the rip-offs are. Did they not KNOW about these supposed price rip-offs in advance? Or do they just like to complain about things?

If you are going to buy something to eat and it seems like it is over-priced, do you go ahead and buy it anyway? I am not aware that anyone who didn't buy a slice of pizza or some gelato starved to death as a result.
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May 9th, 2013, 05:44 AM
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Stevewith, you raise an important point in that the (mercifully infrequent, as a rule) exploitation that is a reality of life everywhere feels worse when one is traveling. This is partly because as a tourist, it is harder to fight back.

It's also true that in the context of a trip costing thousands of dollars, $20 ice cream is an annoyance, not a disaster. I have long held that one should set a budget for annoyances before one leaves home - so many unexpectedly steep taxi fares, so many crappy meals, so much for ripoffs, and so on. Then when it happens, it's just an item to tick off the list for the 'annoyance' budget.

But I'm sticking to my guns that one cannot tell, one way or the other, from that article what occurred. There is no mention of track record, so one must take as a default that the simplest explanation applies, that of a misunderstanding. Which is easy enough to happen even when people share a language. This is why I suggested having the proprietor write down the price. Of course, this isn't a failsafe against a bait-and-switch -- being offered one type or size of product, and getting another. But clearer communication is certainly a start.
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May 9th, 2013, 06:01 AM
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"E.g. if you do not order four courses for dinner (the Italian way is antipasti, pasta, meat or fish and dessert) you have a good chance of being treated rudely, slowly and badly. I have to admit that often tourists provoke this kind of behaviour by themselves.E.g. if you do not order four courses for dinner (the Italian way is antipasti, pasta, meat or fish and dessert) you have a good chance of being treated rudely, slowly and badly. I have to admit that often tourists provoke this kind of behaviour by themselves."

Traveller1959, we are talking about one of the largest and, for all their recent troubles, one of the most industrialized and advanced economies in the world.

Do you really think that the Italian economy developed by perpetrating quaint so-called 'cultural' notions of business on their customers, which include many, many corporations that I suggest aren't quite as naive as you seem to suggest, especially given the BILLIONS of euros of international contracts involved.

For Pete's sake, the place is not about some quaint mom-and-pop pizza stand. The culture of business is the property of BOTH vendor and buyer, as any Italian manufacturer who shipped defective merchandise on the grounds that 'they brought this on themselves' would find out in a hurry.
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May 9th, 2013, 07:41 AM
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I've maybe opened some sort of hornet's nest by starting this thread, so an explanation is in order. We have been staying in Venice for about six weeks, and we've previously stayed here a couple of times, each for two months. So maybe we are better at connecting with local businesses and people, the wine shop where we get our plastic bottles refilled at 2.20 euro a litre, the bar downstairs where a spritz costs 2.50, the Coop supermarket where one particular check out operator treats is kindly as we fumble for the correct change. The bar where we take breakfast, two cappucini & two brioche, for 5.00 euro.

Sure, we have been bitten in the past. We fell for the leather jacket scam in Rome six years ago and we still laugh about it. We got bitten by a cab driver in Rome two years ago - put it down to our confusion and stupidity. We gave a guy with "CREW" on his vest a euro for helping us get our bags onto a train. We've given the guy on fiddle and the guy on violin who play just down the street (their repertoire extends to at most seven tunes) the occasional euro - the trade off is that they smile, laugh, and ask me if I am working in Venice, or how long we are staying for.

Yes, prices can be high. A coffee in the Piazza costs a packet. So does a handbag if one buys it from Messrs. L Vuitton - and that's just a handbag. So look at the price tag before you commit. We've seen many people sit down at Quadri's, look at the menu, decide that it is not for them, and stroll off. The waiters may not be amused, but the people who have strolled off are exercising their choice. Fair enough.

I suppose that in the six weeks that we've been here, we've had a couple of hundred transactions, probably more. We've been disappointed with maybe two or three transactions out of two hundred. Can't complain about that. But maybe we have been exceptionally lucky - or good luck seeks us out.
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May 9th, 2013, 11:50 AM
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I think many proprietors of shops in Rome and Venice take a good look at tourists and decide whether or not to up the ante.

If you look like you have a few bucks--nice watch, nice shoes, expensive bag, good jewellery--some of these shop workers decide that you can afford the most expensive coffee or most expensive gelato serving.

In Venice, I was always offered the best items, food, wine, coffee. The proprietors took one look at me and decided in an instant that I wasn't a budget tourist.

I was told this by a shop owner in Greece. He told me he looked at people's teeth and shoes and then decided whether or not he had someone who was actually going to buy or someone who was going to browse.

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May 9th, 2013, 02:24 PM
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I must travel in a haze. I don't think we've ever been ripped off in Italy. We've had some meals where prices were far below our level of enjoyment and often feel some entry fees, as Peter also mentioned, are way too low.

I do remember one lunch in Rome near the Vatican. We were sitting outside. At the end of the meal, but before we'd asked for the conto, my husband made a trip to the men's room. When he returned to the table, I made my trip to the ladies' room. The waiter practically followed me all the way to the toilet, and my husband later told me another waiter stood near our table until I returned. We realized they thought we were going to 'dine and dash.' So, perhaps the ripping off goes both ways...?
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May 9th, 2013, 06:14 PM
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There are scams in every country - and have been since the beginning of time.

Once can do one's best to avoid them. But they are never going to go away completely (although I have found them to be very rare in most places).

If one allows a trip to be ruined because they were cheated on the price of an ice cream cone - there is no one else that can help that. And one just needs to gain some perspective. (Not fun - but really, no big deal.)

And we too have had people help us out, offer free desert (minute fresh strawberries from uncle giulio's farm)or after dinner drink. Or aim us towards better parking space or whatever. IMHO the good far outweighs the bad.

What I have more problems with is certain failings it is hard to ignore. Like sub-par food in Venice (too many tourists versus locals). I have had a couple of other meals in italy that were not great - but no others that were really bad. So we have learned just to be extra careful there.
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May 10th, 2013, 02:57 AM
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I suppose that a story "Tourists charged 18 euro for an ice cream" will always get a run in the press.

Only the Onion www.theonion.com would be likely to run the alternative (as well as taking a shot at Spirit airlines, funny if you don't mind the occasional unprintable expletive).


Area man, Peter_S_Aus visited Italy and was surprised that he was not ripped off. "I was advised that Italy was full of, like, thieves and rip off merchants. But I bought these two awesome spritzes for just five europas, and they came with these freakin' big olives on sticks. The guy offered me a bowl of crisps, and they were, like, free" he told our reporter.

Mr Aus doubts if he's had a real Italian holiday, and plans to visit Venice Beach, or that Venice canal in Vegas. "They've got those gondola boats in Vegas, and I think I'll get slugged there, for sure", he said.
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May 10th, 2013, 08:08 AM
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For many years I lived in a tourist destination (Hawaii). Locals were often charged less than tourists for daily goods and services. It really is not a case of ripping off the tourist. It's a matter of giving the locals a break. Tourism can drive up the cost of living in a very desirable area, yet most jobs continue to be service jobs with moderate pay. The locals support these businesses week in and week out throughout the year - not just for two weeks after saving up for a long awaited trip and they deserve to be acknowledged and thanked (IMHO)

Of course,this is not the same thing as the infamous $18 ice cream - and if that really exists it's a shame. I have never felt fleeced visiting Italy. Sure, things can be pricey. My guess is those prices are a fair reflection of the costs of doing business. Think of the cost and logistics of doing business in Venice!
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May 11th, 2013, 10:50 AM
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Whenever I ordered gelato in Rome (and I've had my fair share!), I had to pre-pay and then hand my ticket to the 'scooper'.
So I really can't understand why, if you find the price quoted is absurdly high, you would still turn over your Euros, receive your overpriced gelato, eat it, and THEN cry it was too expensive??
Say "no thank you" to the price and walk out. Find another shop.
Show a little initiative people!
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May 11th, 2013, 11:40 AM
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Stevewith made some very good points (or rather, I agree with him, so I think they were good points ;-) ). If a place has a history of price-gouging, it's good to know in advance so we can avoid it. Even better to know there are less expensive alternatives nearby.

Naming and shaming this one place does NOT mean that everywhere in Italy is a ripoff or that you can't ripped off in lots of other places.

I appreciate the head's up.
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