There are stories like this from around the world.
Unsuspecting tourists sit down at an inviting-looking place, often lured in by a location or perhaps a banner offering some type of special, and then are presented with a bill for hundreds of dollars after ordering food and a couple of drinks.
DK Oyster, on Mykonos’ Platis Gialos beach in the Greek Islands, is one such notorious place that has had stunned travelers complaining about being ripped off and even left one tourist labeling the owners as “thieves.” The latter got a bill for €711.41 for three orange juices, one Aperol spritz and “a medium portion of squids and shrimp” and another couple there was charged €800 for a plate of crab legs. In both cases, the waiter explained it away as saying the price on the menu is or small portions. However, larger portions were served, apparently with the customers not being made aware of the difference the pricing in advance.
Okay, they were ripped off and paid a heavy price – literally – for it. It’s nothing new, however. For years, these places are known as clip joints in bar-speak, which are usually strip clubs that take advantage of unaware customers. A typical scam is for a girl to sit down next to a customer and asks him to buy her a drink. That “drink” turns out to be a $500 bottle of champagne.
But there are ways to avoid being scammed in restaurants and bars if you follow these guidelines.
• Avoid restaurants bars that have nothing but tourists.
• Use your instincts. If you walk into a place and get a weird vibe, turn around and leave. A good sign is if the place is has few or zero customers and the staff rushes up to quickly seat you at a table while ignoring your objections or questions.
• Watch out for restaurants and bars in close to cruise ships. Many places, particularly in small towns that rely almost exclusively on cruise ship passengers, have high prices for food and drinks and might be prime ripoff places.
• The same applies to heavily tourist areas in big cities, particularly in Europe. There, like around the Colosseum in Rome, you’ll find busy, expensive restaurant or bar with too-quick service and mediocre food. Go down a side street a few blocks away or while in another part of the city, pop into a small cafe or bar for a beer or glass of wine and ask a local.
• Talk with other travelers or fellow cruise ship passengers to see if they have any bad (or good) experiences.
• Don’t go into a place alone or as a couple. There’s strength in numbers.
• Don’t run a tab. Pay for each drink or food item as it is served, in cash if possible.That way you can see how much items really cost and if it’s outrageous you can leave before getting stuck having to pay several hundred dollars. If the place insists on running a tab and you sense something is off, leave.
• Read reputable blogs and reviews – such as PubClub.com, which provides “boots on the ground” information because we have been there, done that – in advance of going to destinations. For those who had bad experiences at DK Oyster, for example, they would have been much better off to have gone into a taverna in the town of Chora (also called Mykonos town) or the much more popular Paradise Beach.