I have now been “scammed” twice in Ukraine in the roughly two weeks I’ve been here. I use quotations because it’s hard to be too upset over what has amounted to only $15 USD.
But regardless, it’s good to share these stories to make people aware.
STORY #1: HOW I PAID $12…FOR A BOTTLE OF WATER
I have a Ukrainian girl whom I’ve been seeing since a few days after I got here. She’s wonderful. One day, we took the metro to the quaint little riverside neighborhood for lunch.
Originally I had planned to go to an American-style grill, but it didn’t look too impressive when we walked by. She knew of another place just down the road that she really liked, so we went there.
When sitting down, I ordered a still water – yes, you have to specifically ask for that here – and no, you can’t just get tap water. If you want to drink water, you’re paying for it. I’m not kidding when I say it’s cheaper to drink beer.
Here’s how that conversation went – and keep in mind that my girl clarified this order with me (the waiter spoke decent but not perfect English).
ME: Privet (greetings/hello), I’ll take a still water.
HIM: Gas, or no gas? Evian okay? (I missed this last bit).
ME: No gas, thank you.
MY GIRL: (Orders a beer.)
And…that was the end of it. Until I got the bill.
The bill looked like this, converted to USD from UAH:
Yes, I paid more for a BOTTLE of water than I did for a pizza.
The thing is – the waiter did nothing “wrong” on paper. He asked me if I wanted Evian, and I didn’t clarify. Evian is cheap in the States. It’s just an ordinary bottle of water that looks like this:
But no, he brought me the expensive glass Evian bottle, already opened and poured before I could even do anything.
And regardless, I sure as hell didn’t expect it to be $12.
So no, he didn’t do anything wrong, but it’s shady ethics at best. And stupid. Sure, he made a few bucks more, but really – was there a benefit for him?
He definitely wasn’t the owner of the place, but perhaps he makes a 10% commission on every sale.
Without the water, the bill would have been ~400UAH, and I would have left a 50UAH tip on that due to the bills I had on me at the time.
Instead, the bill was 630UAH and he got nothing for a tip. I was going to give him 70UAH, but when my girl looked at the bill and explained to me what happened – the tip was off the table.
So even if he made the extra 230UAH on the bottle and took 23UAH from that (10%), he still came out a loser in the end. As did I.
I mostly was just shocked by this because a local girl who speaks Ukrainian was with me and they still tried (well, did) to pull one over on me.
I expect that to happen when it’s just myself, and I don’t speak the language. In fact, every time I’m in a bar, I make sure to clarify that I want the cheapest vodka, otherwise they will automatically pour Grey Goose.
I’ve never written a review of a restaurant in my life, but I actually took the time to jot down a few paragraphs about the experience and post it on TripAdvisor in this case.
My poor girl felt awful considering she’d suggested the place, but hey – it is what it is. I learned a cheap lesson and have a funny story to tell.
Speaking of – the second scam is even funnier and only cost me $3. Stay tuned for that next week.
A FINAL NOTE
I run a business now and I see every day the importance of good customer service.
The real loser in this case is the business.
They scammed me for a quick buck and ultimately my two paragraphs on TripAdvisor will cost them far more money than the $12 bottle of water they sold me.
I could write a post on this website with the restaurant name and city and it would destroy them. It would easily leapfrog their own website and rank #1 in Google.
You never know who you may be dealing with.
Keep that in mind as you go through life.