Apr 30, 2007

The Lottery of the Bill Amount

I am amused by the funny feeling I get as I wait for a food receipt when I have no idea on how much the food I ate costed me. Not including the taxes in the displayed price on the menu is so stupid. Do they honestly expect a casual consumer, who could be anything between 10 to 50 years old, to calculate, on the top of his head, how much 4% + 5% would add on the numbers that he sees on the board?

While some of us might be fortunate enough to be able to order from a Hardees takeaway outlet without giving much though about how much EXACTLY it will cost before making the order, that does not necessarily apply to everyone. The extra 150 Baizas that we pay might not break anybody’s back, but I can think of the little kid that had only a RO 2 allowance to spend on dinner on the family’s day out, he was allowed to go and buy his own meal from whatever food outlet he selects in the food court, he checks the prices on the menu above and orders a meal that costs him EXACTLY what he had in his pocket, the cashier says okay, he gets him the order and, makes a couple of clicks and a random number appears on the numerical LCD – which is surprisingly more than what the kid had in his hands.

Was it the mistake of the kid that the menu did not clearly state that the meals actually cost MORE than the amounts mentioned? This is stupid and it should be illegal. It is very likely for any consumer to be misled to think that the prices displayed are those that he has to actually pay. Especially when the price is displayed in a bold big font and there is not sign right next to it stating that a tax is to be imposed upon it.

I think that all restaurants should include the taxes within the price of the meal, I should have the right to KNOW how much EXACTLY I will be paying in advance. While it has been traditionally accepted that service at a restaurant could be charged on a percentage basis depending on what you order – and that cannot be specified in advance, it is crazy to expect a consumer to even estimate how much a 5% plus 4% plus the service fee or delivery fee would be in total.

Even though it can be nice while waiting for the bill to come to have a bet on who actually manages to guess how much the bill would be, it is obviously not right as this is not a lottery.