Restaurant scams, Italy, Italy (Photo )

Oh, waiter! There's a scam in my soup!

The scam is: you didn't order the soup.

Some shady waiters will pad bills with:

  • Unordered items—Easy for them to do when it's hard to tell what's scribbled on the bill.
  • Fictional surcharges—98% of Italian restaurants do charge a coperto (cover charge). Beyond that, if the menu doesn't specify some other fixed charge, and one shows up, politely question it.
  • Doubled taxes—Let's see, that'd be 15% for the government, and 15% for the waiter's pocket.
  • Simple shortchanging—Scrutinize the bill carefully, but surreptitiously and politely—no need to offend the thousands of honest waiters by being obvious about your suspicions.
  • NOTE: Bread and cover is not a scam—The "pane e coperto" (or just "coperto") is an annoying fact of life in Italian restaurants. Everyone at the table gets charged a few Euro just for the privilege of sitting down. » more
  • NOTE: Servizio is not a scam—Many restaurants include a servizio (service charge) or 10–15%. This fact—and the amount—is usually printed somewhere on the menu (look for some fine print–style, italicized text near the bottom or on the back). You can also just ask: "É incluso il servizio" ("Is service included?"). If the answer is yes, that covers your tip—though it's customary to leave behind an extra Euro per person if service was extra-good. If the answer is no, tip 15% or so as you usually would. » more