It’s never about the money, guys. We won’t be any poorer by giving away a few euros to the con artists. I say it’s about not being played for a fool. I hate that.
I will name a few places and situations I’ve had the misfortune to experience so you can be aware of and not fall prey during your stay in Madrid.
There aren’t many in Madrid. Madrid is a very safe city as a matter of fact. But you know, you will probably look like a tourist (not physically, but tourists have a different way of carrying themselves when they walk on the street, as if everything is new). So, don’t put your cell phone in the back pocket of your jeans as well as in the external pocket of your purse. That’s basically it.
The rosemary branch
This one is for the ladies. In Madrid city center you might be approached by a gypsy lady offering you a rosemary branch. They will say it’s for good luck. If you take it they will ask for money or will insist to read your palm. I’ve seen a girl giving a lady a 10€ bill after a typical cold reading show. So, unless you feel like giving them money for whatever reason you’ve got (it’s your right), just walk away and don’t be nice. If you are nice (like I was in the beginning), they will see it as weakness. They will follow you, touch you. It’s a nightmare.
The bread trap
There you are in a restaurant. You order a nice soup or a platter of cheese and prosciutto. Waiter brings a basket of bread. You finish your meal and ask for the check. How many rolls did you eat, again? 4 altogether? Ok, now you owe them 6€. Yes, they charged you 1,50€ per bread. Let’s talk to the manager? Oh, but you ate them! Now you’ll have to pay, madam. It’s in the menu! For God’s sake… (First of all, bread should be free, especially if your order soup, cold cuts, carpaccio, etc. But if they charge for that, I only think they should let the customer know in advance. It’s such an easy way to take money away from tourists).
Again, is it about the money? No. I just think it’s dishonest. Especially when we are in the country of Free Tapas.
Here’s an example of a restaurant that does that kind of thing. And if you talk nicely to the waiter and then to the manager about the matter, they both will give you an attitude. You know those places that are used to dealing with one-time only customers and don’t give a $%&/ to what you think?
Keep track of how many cañas you have
This happens everywhere. Brazil, China, Spain, El Salvador, etc. I’ll share one particular experience at Cafe del Principe in Calle Canalejas (second weird experience at this place, unfortunatelly). Not only they charged for an extra caña, but they also included the basket of chips in the check. Those chips are free with every new round of drinks. Ps: We were 4 people speaking Portuguese in a touristic neighborhood. But I happen to live here. Of course I complained and they took it off (after having given me the worst excuse EVER). The ridiculous excuse bothered me more than the euro charged.
Is it about the money? Hell, no. But you know, people don’t usually complain about that one euro (they feel embarrassed or they, as foreigners, think that’s the way it is in that particular country – when it’s not). So what ends up happening is that those people involved finish the year with a fat Christmas bonus from scamming people like you and me all year around. (Multiply 365 times the average number of tables a restaurant serves in a day times 1€ – It’s some ridiculous money).
A special topic to this Japanese restaurant in Santo Domingo / Callao called Nipponsei
Food is ok. It’s good actually. Decoration is nice. But unfortunatelly they fall into the tourist trap category. They charge a service fee per person (you know those small letters we never read in the menu?) and the VAT tax is added afterwards when you ask for the check. By law the VAT should come already inserted in the menu’s final price, like every other restaurant in the country does. In a nutshell, you think you consumed 60€ but the bill will come 100€.
I found it worth mentioning because it’s such at a strategic place for tourists. It’s basically on our street. So if you wanna go there, expect to pay a lot more at the end.