Are You Getting Ripped Off? At Your Bills and Receipts

Photo credit to Cord Cutters News

Adult Tantrums, Getting Ripped Off

Here’s where an adult temper tantrum is useful.  When it comes to your money – it’s important to know if you’re getting ‘ripped off’ or you’re getting value.  I supposed that you could say that adult temper tantrum is ‘all in the eye of the beholder’.  But let’s consider what this means and why it should make your blood boil, at least temporarily as a signal to protect your money.

We were in Venice, in the tourist section of the City that falls behind St. Mark’s Square.  Hunger pains took us over, so it was clear that we needed some ‘value’ to soothe our stomachs and keep our energy going to explore the raptures of this landmark destination.

We cruised the narrow cobblestone streets and breezed by an Italian waft of garlic that got our attention.  The red and white checked table clothes looked pretty, and the woman at the restaurant door beckoned us in.  In a quick decision, we decided it looked like a good stop. 

We sat down and ordered quickly, hunger foremost on our minds.  Two bowls of vegetable soup, two glasses of house wine, and a side of spinach.  Easy. 

When the bill came, it was $80 Euro, or about $95 American!  We were shocked.  How could that be?  Well, let’s see.  We were tourists, taken by the desire of the restaurant to fatten their pockets, knowing that we would not be returning to their restaurant again because we’d be on our way to other destinations. 

This was a formula for getting ‘ripped off’.  The bowls of soup were about as big as your fist, the wine was soaring, and the spinach was just a small amount of spinach.  Clearly, the food was not a value for the price. 

Now, what were we to do?  We took it as an insult to fork over that amount of money for such a minimal effort on the part of the restaurant.

When we looked carefully at the bill, we discovered that they had charged us (unbeknownst to us) $6 Euro per person to just sit at the table.  Imagine our surprise — since this is not conventional in our world.  Next, they had charged us $15 Euro for some ‘garlic’ bread that didn’t even come with the garlic.  And to get to $80 Euro, the prices of the soup and wine were inflated. 

Clearly, we’d gone unconscious when we sat down for dinner and were not alert to the lack of value that we were about to receive.  Now we had to deal with this incongruity in some fashion.

There are three things that it takes to reconcile value.  And if you don’t have these three things — you won’t have any money. 

  1. A Sense of Entitlement.  This is a standard of saying what you deserve and what quality you expect. 
  2. Connection to How You Feel About It:  Sitting there I could begin to feel my face flush with rage. 
  3. Ability To Say ‘NO’:  The discord between what I expected and what I got was enough to put my foot down.

Because if you don’t draw the line in the sand, then you won’t have any money because we live in a world of commerce where someone is always trying to sell you something.  And the value of that something is arbitrary, meaning that they just made up what they think that it is worth.  You have your money in your pocket, and you also have the opportunity to conclude what it is worth to trade for value. 

Just because they made up the price does not mean that it’s for certain.  Here’s a lesson I learned from my roommate in college.  ‘You can negotiate anything’.  And once I got that, I was amazed at what you can negotiate!

So here we were with the bill.  We tried politely.  ‘No, we are not paying this.  We are not paying to sit at the table, and we are not paying for the small amount of food for this price’.  Well, that didn’t work.  We had a choice at this moment — to make a fuss or be victims of these circumstances. 

We decided to make a fuss.  ‘Is there a manager? We are not paying this and want some consideration.’  They ignored us but started talking rapidly in Italian, which of course we didn’t understand.  By now we had employed all three principles:  entitlement, gut feeling and conclusive ‘no’.  So, we were prepared. 

Isn’t it true that in unfamiliar circumstances or when you are going unconscious, that money can slip from your fingers?  I didn’t feel obligated to be ripped off.  This is true because I have an acute sense of where my pennies (which take care of the dimes, quarters and dollars) are going.  This is absolutely a truism of people who have money. 

People who have money know the value in exchange for their money.  So, this put me in a position of battle.  Too bad because not exactly how I wanted the evening to go – but necessary in the context of the circumstances.

We also learned that they had charged us an extra tax and added a gratuity.  This wasn’t usual either.  The bill appeared really phony to both of us.  And we told this to the manager. 

She pretended not to understand our English.  That was convenient for disrupting the conversation.  That was, ‘we determined the value and we’re going to stick with it, we don’t care what you think.’  This was not a good sign for negotiation. 

We sent the same message back to the manager. ‘We’ve determined the value, and we’re not paying your bill’.  This was an essential step of not getting ripped off. 

Generally, people who want to rip you off can be very pushy.  Remember, the only way that money comes to you is from other people’s pockets.  Presumably, you deliver sufficient value to receive money from other people in exchange.  That’s the way it works best.  However, there are those that just want to grab it and run.

Women Thinking About Bills and Receipts

Photo credit to Financial Post

This is what we were dealing with.  It was important to recognize this.  Important for what happened next.

We approached the cashier and offered to resolve the issue with a $50 Euro bill that we placed on the counter.  We had received some value — this amount of value was our position.  The cashier got hostile, grabbed at the wallet of my friend and tried to pull money out of it, and appeared physically threatening. 

Wow — that was a ‘red flag’.  Kindness, consideration, peacefulness, reconciliation went out the door at that point.  The point is that negotiation between what we deemed as value and what they deemed as the value was impossible at the moment.  Honestly, we didn’t even deem the value as $50 Euro. 

And sometimes, this is the case.  Money is a system of negotiation and consideration of value.  It must be agreed upon for a transaction to take place successfully.  And this means that you have to have a sense of entitlement, feel how the value feels to you, and speak up against the transaction if it’s not in your interest. 

When you do this — you can sidestep getting ‘ripped off’.  This is a feeling that no one likes, and your pocketbook will get empty if you don’t have a gatekeeper on it. 

We summoned up our courage and walked out of the restaurant with a mental note to be much more careful the next time.  Next time we would check to see what we were getting ourselves into and anticipate our financial outcome. 

There was a lot to do in Venice and a lot to spend money on. After that lesson, we took our day passes for the boat bus and went for a leisurely ride on the Grand Canal and really enjoyed the value of seeing the magnificent City from the water with our well-priced tickets!!

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