I could never be accused of being a world traveller. I’m much more a homebody, preferring the creature comforts of my little niche in the world. Yet lately I’ve been making forays out of my comfort zone. New York City and Costa Rica are two examples. However, just because I don’t get about much, does not mean I don’t appreciate the economic benefits of tourism. Which is why I always wonder why, if cities, towns, countries, cherish the infusion of outside cash, is it always open-season on tourists?
It just seems to be taken for granted that as a tourist you are going to get screwed left, right, and centre. And, evidently, tourists are supposed to just shrug and laugh off paying exorbitant prices for daily items. From souvenirs to airline meals, prices are insane. It’s not bad enough to be targets for thieves and pick-pockets, even reputable establishments get on board when it comes to squeezing coins from those beloved travellers.
Recently my wife and I were in the Miami International airport sitting-out a few hour lay-over. No problem, we were not in any rush, and it was nice not to have to hurry to get a connection. While waiting we decided to have a meal. We went to Shula’s Bar and Grill for a burger and a beer given it was located closed to our gate.
The place was not busy, and service started out fine with the delivery of menus. A little while later the waitress returned to take our order. We each asked for a pint of draft Coors Lite as listed on the menu.
“Sorry,” she said. “We don’t have any draft beer here”.
Not the end of the world, do you have Coors Lite in any form; bottle or can.
“Sorry, how about Bud Lite in a can?”
Wonderful, two of those would do us just fine. In no time at all the two cans had arrived at our table and, not too long after our hamburgers made their appearance.
While eating what were very tasty burgers indeed I noticed a woman at another table who, having had just an appetizer was taken aback by the ungodly price when her bill arrived. Gobsmacked to say the least, the woman paid and left in a huff.
I ordered another Bud Lite as we had plenty of time to kill. My wife had a coffee. When the time came to pay, I knew it was going to be ridiculously high. I knew the burger prices from the menu, but not the canned beer prices. So I was just a wee bit shocked to read that the cans were US$8.50 each. A significant mark-up. But what the hell, the people who come to airport restaurants are either travelling for business which means they will be reimbursed, or … you guessed it … tourists. Soak them good!
Also, a gratuity of 18% had been included. The service was alright, but not 18% quality.
I asked to pay by credit card. She brought the handy machine. My credit card chip had been damaged, so I was limited to Apple Pay, but this being MIA, a major airport in a big city, I had no doubt they would accept Apple Pay.
Unfortunately I was wrong. When I took out my phone to pay she told me “We don’t accept that method”.
Okay, this was considerably inconvenient, but not the end of the world. I plucked the last of my US currency from my wallet and placed it in the little folder and waited for my change. It was only three or four bucks, but having already paid an 18% tip I wanted my change. When she got around to our table she said – wait for it – “Sorry, I don’t have any change”.
Now I was getting a tad cranky. First no draft beer, even if it was on the menu, then wicked prices for cans of beer, followed by an automatic 18% gratuity then no convenient payment method all topped-off with a claim of no change, had me annoyed.
I did something I rarely if ever do, after listing my grievances, I asked her to show me to the manager. She replied by saying, in a tone that suggested her exasperation with me, “Oh, I can get your change if you really want it”.
Clearly she just wanted to augment her 18% tip by claiming to not have any change. She was, I suspect, used to business travellers and roll-over-and-take-it tourists. I hope she put the extra few bucks to good use, as I could only shake my head and walk off to my gate.