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Posts from July, 2010

How to avoid being cheated in Paris cafés


This is the other side of the medal, as they say in France, of those little old style Parisian cafés.
Nothing really illegal, but sometimes they bend the rules to the point that unsaavy tourists end up paying fat bills.
More light on this:
- Most cafés have a clear menu on each table, with all items and prices clearly displayed.
But others will only bring you a printed menu upon request. In some cases they assume that you
don’t need the menu for simple orders (coffee, drinks) and that’s precisely where they
get you. Your bill will show fantasy prices based upon the look of your clothes.
- The “riskier” areas are the famous Paris hop on hop off bus tourist spots: Ile de la Cité (around Notre Dame), Saint Michel, Saint Germain, the restaurants area around Les Halles/Chatelet.
-“Would you like some X with that?” is a typical strategy to sell you more without telling you
it’s more expensive, sometimes by a lot. Adding milk to coffee can add 1-2 euros.
Adding a side salad to a steak can add 4-6 euros to the bill.
- Serving a larger size than requested is quite typical, especially when hiding behind
linguistic incomprehension (sometimes faked). For example draught beers: the standard serving
is called “Démi” and it’s about 20cl. The larger option is called “Serieux” and is around 40cl, roughly the same as a British “pint”. Well, if you just ask for “a beer” without being specific, chances are you’ll get a pint, or even sometimes one full litre. For coffee: the default size for
coffee is a small cup, but don’t be surprised if you get a large bowl. A generic “café creme” order
will get you a large bowl unless you specify “petit” or “noisette”.

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