i just got back from a coffee shop / cafe in my neighborhood. it was a place i had never been to before. my partner and i had decided to stroll through this area called Chiswick near our flat and look for a spot to chill out, have a drink and read -- or whatever.
as we were walking it started to rain (as it is prone to do in London) so we ducked into the nearest cafe on the block.
we went to the counter and ordered a large latte and a large chai latte.
we sat down next to the counter.
a cafe employee brought over our drinks when they were ready and we sat there a bit, sipping the somewhat-disappointing drinks. (well, mine was disappointing.) i pulled out a book and read a few pages, my partner pulled out a laptop and did some writing.
i asked my partner if he paid for the drinks, because i didn't see him make any transaction. he said, "no, you pay when you're done."
i thought this unusual -- what if an unscrupulous customer skipped out without paying? how did they remember exactly what you ordered without a printed ticket of any kind?
well, whatever. when in Rome...
when we were ready to leave i went up to the counter with some money to pay. i had looked at the menu's price list on the wall and had the exact amount of cash required to pay for our two large drinks: £4.30 (that's $8.60 for you Americans). the only problem was, the woman behind the counter looked at me, tapped her cash register keys and promptly requested i pay £5.10 -- not £4.30.
now, i was standing right in front of the giant price list on the wall and i knew how much my order was supposed to be. so i said to her, "is that for one latte and one chai latte?" and she said yes. i gestured toward the prices on the wall and she said flatly, "those prices are for TAKE-AWAY."
OHHHHH. i get it. i am being charged an undisclosed, unlisted EXTRA amount of money for my drink because i chose to drink it INSIDE the cafe instead of carrying it out. and for whatever reason, it's apparently OK that the cafe doesn't post this higher price anywhere?
yes, apparently it's fine with everyone here -- except me.
this situation is typical of what i've seen in England. in fact, it's probably typical of all of Europe. no one does anything the way they're supposed to, there is shitty customer service pretty much everywhere you go, and you will probably be charged an amount that's higher than the one on the menu for something simply because someone at the cafe or pub decided to change the price without telling anyone.
i think this is shitty.
it's not about the MONEY of course -- it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing. i will now never return to Chiswick Cafe no matter how thirsty or hungry i might be, because they have dishonest business practices and unfriendly counter help. there are so many cafes on our neighborhood sidewalks i would never have to return to one i dislike -- ever. and that's a GREAT thing.
the English businesses seem not to have learned that the consumer is the real boss. if the consumer doesn't like the way you run your business they will take their money elsewhere. in this day and age the only businesses who don't have to be nice to their customers are private, monopoly corporations like DirecTV or BT telephone company.
so Americans beware: if you come to London and you order a drink at a cafe, and it says a specific price on the menu, you may be asked to pay a higher price depending on whether you drink the drink INSIDE the cafe, or carry it away somewhere else.
i would have no problem with any of this if the prices were honestly advertised. but they were not. they weren't even listed at all.
every time i go out and try to enjoy my new home i find another thing that's fucking stupid about it.
so much for assimilation.